Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
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14-Nov-2003

Contact: Science Press Package
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American Association for the Advancement of Science

Baboon babies on board



All aboard," a baby baboon catches a ride from mom. [Image courtesy of Dorothy Cheney]

Full size image available here

For wild baboons living in Africa, social moms make better moms, according to the authors of a new study. Social baboon moms raise more than the average number of infants to one year of age than their neighbors who spend more time alone, according to a study by Joan Silk from the University of California, Los Angeles, and her co-authors.



An adult female baboon grooms her sister. [Image courtesy of Dorothy Cheney]

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The researchers measured young baboons' survival rates until their first birthday because baboons that make it that far have a good chance reaching adulthood and breeding. A year-old baboon is about as grown up as a five-year-old person.

The authors write that their findings complement studies looking at how social life can impact people. These studies on humans generally conclude that social support can have beneficial effects on people's health and well-being throughout their lives.



Baboons rest together at midday in Amboseli, Kenya. Some pairs groom, others sleep, and some care for their offspring. [Image courtesy of Joan B. Silk]

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The researchers tapped 16 years of careful field observations of wild savannah baboons living at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in the African country of Kenya. Over these years, trained observers carefully recorded specific information about the baboons living in the area, including how much time each female dedicated to grooming activities and hanging out with other females. From these social records, the researchers separated the social moms from the less-social moms and found the possible link between an active social life and survival of their babies.

The findings appear in the 14 November issue of the journal Science, published by AAAS, the non-profit science society.

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