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Anim Behav. 2013 Mar 1;85(3):559-568.

Role of Grooming in Reducing Tick Load in Wild Baboons (Papio cynocephalus).

Author information

1
Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya, P.O.Box 24481-00502, Nairobi, Kenya ; Department of Medical Physiology, University of Nairobi, P.O. Box 30197- 00100, Nairobi, Kenya ; Department of Biology, Duke University, Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708-0338, USA.
2
Department of Biology, Duke University, Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708-0338, USA ; Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University, Box 90383, Durham, NC 27708-0338, USA ; Duke Population Research Institute, Duke University Box 90420, Durham, NC 27708-0338, USA.
3
Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya, P.O.Box 24481-00502, Nairobi, Kenya.
4
Department of Medical Physiology, University of Nairobi, P.O. Box 30197- 00100, Nairobi, Kenya.
5
Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya, P.O.Box 24481-00502, Nairobi, Kenya ; Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
6
Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya, P.O.Box 24481-00502, Nairobi, Kenya ; Department of Biology, Duke University, Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708-0338, USA.

Abstract

Nonhuman primate species spend a conspicuous amount of time grooming during social interactions, a behavior that probably serves both social and health-related functions. While the social implications of grooming have been relatively well studied, less attention has been paid to the health benefits, especially the removal of ectoparasites, which may act as vectors in disease transmission. In this study, we examined the relationship between grooming behavior, tick load (number of ticks), and haemoprotozoan infection status in a population of wild free-ranging baboons (Papio cynocephalus). We found that the amount of grooming received was influenced by an individual's age, sex and dominance rank. The amount of grooming received, in turn, affected the tick load of an individual. Baboons with higher tick loads had lower packed red cell volume (PCV or haematocrit), one general measure of health status. We detected a tick-borne haemoprotozoan, Babesia microti, but its low prevalence in the population precluded identifying sources of variance in infection.

KEYWORDS:

baboons; grooming; haemoparasitic infections; ticks

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