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Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Mar 22;273(1587):707-12.

Behavioural and hormonal responses to predation in female chacma baboons (Papio hamadryas ursinus).

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Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6018, USA.


In humans, bereavement is associated with an increase in glucocorticoid (GC) levels, though this increase can be mitigated by social support. We examined faecal GC levels and grooming behaviour of free-ranging female baboons to determine whether similar effects were also evident in a non-human species. Females who lost a close relative experienced a significant increase in GC levels in the weeks following their relative's death compared with the weeks before, whereas control females showed no such increase. Despite the fact that females concentrate much of their grooming on close kin, females who lost a close female relative did not experience a decrease in grooming rate and number of grooming partners; instead, both grooming rate and number of grooming partners increased after a relative's death. While the death of a close relative was clearly stressful over the short term, females appeared to compensate for this loss by broadening and strengthening their grooming networks. Perhaps as a result, females' GC levels soon returned to baseline. Even in the presence of familiar troop-mates and other relatives, females experienced a stress response when they lost specific companions, and they apparently sought to alleviate it by broadening and strengthening their social relationships.

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