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Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Apr 22;274(1613):1109-15.

Kin-mediated reconciliation substitutes for direct reconciliation in female baboons.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6018, USA.


It has been hypothesized that group-living mammals engage in reconciliation (post-conflict affiliation between former opponents) to reduce the disruptive costs of aggression and restore opponents' tolerance to baseline levels. Recipients of aggression are sometimes reluctant to tolerate the proximity of a recent opponent, however, in apparent fear that aggression will be renewed. In such cases, reconciliatory behaviour by the aggressor's close kin may substitute for direct reconciliation. We describe a playback experiment with free-ranging baboons (Papio hamadryas ursinus) that examines whether friendly behaviour by the aggressor's kin can substitute for direct reconciliation by the aggressor herself. In the test condition, female subjects who had recently been threatened heard the friendly grunt of one of their aggressor's relatives, mimicking kin-mediated vocal reconciliation. In the control condition, subjects heard the grunt of a dominant female from a different matriline. Subjects responded significantly more strongly in test than in control trials. Moreover, in the next hour they were significantly more likely to tolerate the proximity of both their aggressor and the relative whose grunt they had heard. In contrast, subjects' behaviour towards both control females and other members of their aggressor's matriline was unaffected. We conclude that kin-mediated vocal reconciliation can substitute for direct reconciliation in baboons.

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