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Anim Cogn. 2005 Jan;8(1):1-6. Epub 2004 May 26.

Male chacma baboons (Papio hamadryas ursinus) discriminate loud call contests between rivals of different relative ranks.

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Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Males in multi-male groups of chacma baboons (Papio hamadryas ursinus) in Botswana compete for positions in a linear dominance hierarchy. Previous research suggests that males treat different categories of rivals differently; competitive displays between males of similar rank are more frequent and intense than those between disparately ranked males. Here we test whether males also respond differently to male-male interactions in which they are not directly involved, using playbacks of the loud 'wahoo' calls exchanged between competing males in aggressive displays. We played paired sequences of vocal contests between two adjacently ranked and two disparately ranked males to ten subjects, half ranking below the signalers in the call sequences and half above. Subjects who ranked above the two signalers showed stronger responses than lower-ranking subjects. Higher-ranking subjects also responded more strongly to sequences involving disparately ranked, as opposed to adjacently ranked opponents, suggesting that they recognized those individuals' relative ranks. Strong responses to sequences between disparately ranked opponents might have occurred either because such contests typically involve resources of high fitness value (defense of meat, estrous females or infants vulnerable to infanticide) or because they indicate a sudden change in one contestant's condition. In contrast, subjects who ranked lower than the signalers responded equally strongly to both types of sequences. These subjects may have been able to distinguish between the two categories of opponents but did not respond differently to them because they had little to lose or gain by a rank reversal between males that already ranked higher than they did.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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