Papio can be divided into five species, as outlined by Groves (2001). Papio hamadryas (hamadryas baboons), P. anubis (anubis baboons), P. cynocephalus (yellow baboons), P. ursinus (chacma baboons), and P. papio (Guinea baboons). Some authorities continue to recognize only a single species, Papio hamadryas, which is composed of five subspecies corresponding to the species mentioned above. Species are parapatric, with hybridization often occurring in areas where populations abut. In overall physical appearance, all members of the genus are similar, with variation in coat color (olive, brown, black, yellow, red, gray), and hair length. A mane or ruff of fur may be prominent in males, and varies by species. Size varies by species and geographically, with males weighing from 20 to 31 kg, and females weighing from 10 to 15 kg. Baboons may live in large or small multi-male, multi-female troops, or single male harems. In all species, social behavior is complex and varied. Baboons can be found in a variety of habitat types, including grasslands, woodlands, semi-arid and arid savannas, steppes, alpine woodlands, sub-deserts, gallery forests, and rainforests. This genus is primarily frugivorous, although grasses, leaves, seeds and other plant material are consumed. Animal matter is eaten when available.
Papio is found in the Ethiopian region, with a mostly continuous distribution in sub-saharan Africa. Isolated populations occur in the north within the Saharan region. P. hamadryas occurs both in the Ethiopian region and in the Palearctic, along the Red Sea coast of Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The Palearctic populations of P. hamadryas have been present for the length of recorded history in the region, but are thought to have been introduced by humans, possibly though a shipwreck, or through importation of these "sacred" baboons sometime during the past 4000 years.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Introduced , Native ); ethiopian (Native )
Papio baboons are large members of the family Cercopithicidae, with weights ranging between 10 and 31 kg. Females of all species are about the same size (around 10 to 15 kg) but males are significantly larger. The greatest sexual dimorphism in size occurs within hamadryas and chacma baboon populatons.
The fur ranges in color from yellow to reddish, and from olive-gray to black. Young animals are always distinctly colored, usually having black fur, but in some species brown or brownish-red pelage characterizes young. Males may have a prominent mane. The face is nearly bare, and the palms and soles of the feet are completely so.
The long face has a conspicuous muzzle. The dental formula is (i 2/2, c 1/1, pm 2/2, m 3/3) x 2 = 32. The lower incisors tend to be oriented straight upward, and come into contact with the canines, whereas the upper incisors are packed tightly together, and separated from the canines by a large diastema. The upper canines are long, a feature which is extremely prominent in males.
Baboons have large ischial callosities, which are fused along the midline in males, but separated by the genitals in females. The skin surrounding these callosities tends to be furless and is either red or black, depending upon species. During mid-cycle, the ano-genital skin of females is swollen, and during pregnancy it reddens, making the rump even more conspicuous.
Locomotion is quadrupedal, and appears to be somewhat stiff-legged in most species. The weight is born on the front extremities by the fingers (digitigrade), but the weight is born by the hind feet across the entire sole of the foot (plantigrade). The thumb is relatively long, allowing precision grip and manipulation of objects. The tail is held in an arch, with the particular shape of the arch varying between species.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; sexes colored or patterned differently; male more colorful; ornamentation
Baboons inhabit a variety of habitats, including savannas, grasslands, scrublands, steppes, semi-arid woodlands, and sub-deserts, as well as gallery and rain forest areas. Key features of all baboon habitats include stable sources of water, and some type of elevated sleeping site. These sleeping sites are usually large trees or cliffs, where the baboons can spend their nights with reduced threat of predation. Rarely, if ever, have baboons been known to willingly sleep on the ground.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest ; mountains
Other Habitat Features: urban ; agricultural
Although generally described as frugivorous, baboons will eat just about anything edible, including grasses, forbes, leaves, buds, flowers, seeds, eggs, insects, and meat. All baboons share the unique ability to subsist solely on grasses and forbes, which allows them to exploit savanna habitats not frequented by other monkeys.
Primary Diet: omnivore
Baboons play several important roles in their ecosystems. Because of their frugivorous tendencies, they disperse seeds. They pull forbs to eat their bulbs and eat tubers, contributing to soil aeration. As prey items, they are likely important to several predator species, depending upon the importance of these primates in the diets of the predators.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds; soil aeration
Baboons are thought to fall prey to several large African predators. Annual rates of predation have been estimated at 1 to 9% of the population for various species and populations.
Some of the predators reported attempting to kill and eat baboons include lions, leopards, and Verreaux’s eagles. Chimpanzees also occasionally hunt baboons.
As in many animals, it is often the young who are the most threatened by predators. General patterns of survivorship in baboon infants are correlated indirectly with predation. Certain weather patterns may allow grasses to grow too tall or thick, allowing predators to surprise unwary young.
The genus Papio is known to exhibit several antipredator behaviors. In all species, males may chase members of their social group who have straggled away, bringing them back into the fold, so to speak. Baboons will mob leopards, and have been known to use their tremendous canine teeth to inflict severe damage upon these would-be assailants.
Reports regarding the spatial patterning of animals during troop movements vary. Some authors indicate that males tend to take the lead to protect the rest of the group for potential predators, but other authors assert that there is no consistent organization of individuals during movement.
- lions (Panthera leo)
- chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)
- Verreaux's eagles (Aquila verreauxi)
- leopards (Panthera pardus)
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Communication between baboons is complex, as would be expected for highly social animals. Baboons are very vocal, and although calls of all species are similar, they may be used in slightly different contexts in each species. Also, different species may produce the same basic vocalizations, yet with slightly different acoustic qualities. Vocalizations reported for Papio include barks, grunts, roars, screeches, yakking, clicking, and ick-ooers. Tactile communication includes a great deal of grooming, as well as social mounting (a form of reassurance), and nose-to-nose contact. Gestures and facial expressions, such as friendly faces and lip-smacking, also play a large role in communication. Some threats are communicated via facial expression or gestures. Olfactory communication may be present, as females are reported to have enhanced attractiveness to males when they are producing aliphatic acids.
Social dominance is very important in all baboon species. Human observers calculate the dominance rank of individuals by monitoring the outcome of one-on-one aggressive interactions, and looking at the tendency of one animal to supplant, or displace, another animal. It is likely that there are other cues which communicate dominance between the animals themselves.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Members of the genus Papio have been reported to live for up to 45 years in captivity. Lifespans of wild animals are more difficult to assess, since even long-term studies of these animals in the wild cannot provide accurate information on the age of animals who immigrate into a community, nor can they track the eventual fate of those animals who emigrate from a community. However, the maximum lifespan in wild populations is probably 30 to 40 years.
Reproduction and mating systems of the genus Papio fall into two primary types. The first is polygynadrous or promiscuous mating in multi-male, multi-female troops, found in all species except P. hamadryas. The second is mating within single male social units, typically found in P. hamadryas but occasionally reported for P. anubis, P. cynocephalus, and P. ursinus.
Within multi-female, multi-male troops, females attract males during a prolonged estrus period through the swelling of their prominently colored ano-genital area. Estrus swellings typically last for many days, during which males may actively compete for access to the female. Papio anubis females are reported to have receptivity of 15 to 20 day during the middle portion of their estrous cycles. Papio ursinus females are receptive throughout their cycle, but copulations peak during the mid portion of the cycle.
Olfactory cues may be present to signal female reproductive receptivity. Papio anubis females produce aliphatic acids, enhance their attractiveness to potential mates.
Certain males, usually mid- to high-ranking older males, are capable of forming stable consortships with females through exclusion of competitors. Younger males often attempt to "steal" females away from older males, but such older males may form coalitions to prevent this. Regardless, the success of a male in copulating with a female is often related to his long-standing relationship with her. Females are more cooperative toward males with whom they frequently associate in a friendly manner during the times when they are not in estrus. Such males will often support a female in her conflicts with other females or males, and will support the female’s offspring in peer conflicts. These males are also more likely to share food with the offspring of their "close" female friends.
The initiation of copulation follows a somewhat ritualized pattern in baboon species. A female typically presents her hindquarters to a male to signal that she is sexually receptive. Chacma baboon females also raise their eyebrows and flatten their ears while looking at males (Walters, 1987). Males may initiate a copulation by lip-smacking, making a friendly face, or gently shoving a female to entice her to stand. Copulation proceeds in either a single mount (e.g. P. anubis) or a series of mounts (e.g. P. ursinus, P. hamadryas). Information on mating frequencies is spotty, but is known to occur from 1 to 6 times per hour for cycling female yellow baboons, and from 7 to 14 times per hour for cycling female hamadryas baboons. Pregnant females, who generally exhibit a reddening of the perineal skin, do not copulate.
In contrast to the competition for access to females in other baboons, there is little overt competition of this nature in hamadryas baboons. A single male establishs a "harem" of females, which he guards from other males at all times, not just during their estrus periods. Males actively herd their females, keeping the social unit together during foraging. Males actively suppress aggression between females. Although sometimes these one-male units may have another male who acts as a "follower," rarely does the follower male interact with females.
In some cases, one-male units are found in other species of baboons, apparently usually a result of demographic stochasticity. When they occur, the male typically engages himself much more strongly in controlling the movements of group females, and intervenes more frequently and to greater effect in the conflicts which arise between females.
There are two mechanisms by which hamadryas males typically attract mates. The first is by abducting a young female from her mother. The male cares for the female, grooms her, and carries her if need be, until she reaches maturity, at which time he will mate with her. Females, who typically transfer out of their natal group upon reaching maturity, are generally attracted to males who already have a female, so kidnapping is an effective strategy for males to begin their family unit. The second strategy males adopt is to take-over an existing harem through direct aggression with and displacement of the tenured male. This strategy is complicated by the complex social relationships between males, who may intervene to support brothers, cousins, uncles or fathers in such conflicts.
An interesting correlate of these different mating systems is the schedule of testicular development in young males (Jolly and Phillips-Conroy, 2003). In P. anubis testes continue to grow through the adolescent period until full adult body size is attained, whereas in P. hamadryas testicular growth and development ends when the male is still a sub-adult. This results in distinctly smaller testes in hamadryas baboons than in anubis baboons, as would be predicted by models of sperm competition theory.
Another potential correlate of mating systems is the presence of series mounting during copulation, as opposed to single mounting. It is interesting to note that one-male units are most commonly reported for chacma baboons, and like hamadryas baboons, this species exhibits serial mounting during mating. Species where one-male units are less common are not reported to be serial mounters.
Mating System: polygynous ; polygynandrous (promiscuous)
Most members of the genus Papio breed throughout the year, although some populations may breed seasonally. The female cycle length is from 30 to 40 days, and varies by species, age, reproductive history of the female, social situation, and ecological variables. Information on gestation length is spotty. Gestation lasts approximately 180 days in P. anubis, 161 to 175 days in P. cynocephalus, 172 days in P. hamadryas, 187 days in P. ursinus.
In most species and populations, there is a birth peak. The timing of this peak varies, but is usually the end of the dry season or beginning of the rainy season. Lactation occurs until 6 to 15 months of age, varying by species, timing of birth, availability of weaning foods, maternal rank, and other variables (Harvey et al., 1987; Bentley-Condit, 1997; Rhine et al, 1988). Young typically weigh approximately 600 to 900 g at birth for P. hamadryas, 1068 g for P. anubis, and 854 g for P. cynocephalus. Newborns have a distinctly colored coat (black, brown or reddish-brown), which they maintain until they are approximately weaning age, when they molt into a fur more typical of adults of the species.
With the genus Papio, the interval between births ranges from 12 to 34 months. It is not known whether differences reported in interbirth intervals are due to genetic differences between populations as well as species, or ecological and social differences.
Females may reach menarche between 3 and 6 years of age. This may occur before adult teeth have fully erupted, and before adult body size is attained. Males reach puberty at 4 to 6 years of age. Testicles may mature prior to attainment of adult body size full eruption of canines, as is the case for P. hamadryas, or they may continue to grow until the adult body size is attained, as in P. anubis.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous
Parental care is provided primarily by mothers. Females nurse their young, carry them, groom them, and support them in agonistic encounters with their peers. Infants sleep in contact with their mothers until they are close to a year of age.
Females other than the mother may attempt to groom or hold newly born infants, and in some cases have been known to kidnap newborns from their mothers. If the infant is not returned promptly to nurse, it could die. This type of behavior therefore, has been interpreted as harassment, rather than as alloparenting.
There are interesting patterns of interaction between males and infants, which are sometimes interpreted as parental care. Males will typically use an infant as a buffer against aggression from other males, clinging to an infant if an attack by another male appears imminent. This appears to work because the mother, and her female kin, will become involved in the conflict if the male holding the infant is actually attacked. A potentially attacking male apparently thinks twice about instigating aggression when it might stir up resentment among the females.
Males often have a special relationship with the infants they use in such a fashion. Males groom, carry, and share meat with these infants. They also sometimes intervene in agonistic encounters between the infant and its peers. If a mother happens to die, males have been known to care for orphans whom they have used as agonistic buffers, providing some of the essential functions that the mother normally would.
This behavior may indeed be paternal, since infants typically allow themselves to be used as buffers only by those males who associate closely with their mothers. Since close male associates of a female have greater chances of fathering her offspring, the additional care that the male gives to his "buffer" infants may be going to his likely offspring.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Male, Female); post-independence association with parents; extended period of juvenile learning; inherits maternal/paternal territory; maternal position in the dominance hierarchy affects status of young
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
Specimens with Sequences:137
Specimens with Barcodes:125
Species With Barcodes:6
CITES lists all baboon species in Appendix II, so international trade in the animals or their parts is in theory regulated by governments.
The IUCN Redlist lists P. hamadryas and P. papio as "Lower Risk/near threatened," with major threats to baboons being habitat loss and degradation due to agriculture, havesting for food and for scientific purposes, as well as continued persecution by indigenous people. Other Papio species are listed as "Lower Risk/least concern," indicating the species are not considered at risk at this time.
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Baboons are often considered pests. They are known to raid crops in Africa
Negative Impacts: crop pest
Baboons are large, active animals. They are therefore of interest to ecotourists. In Saudi Arabia, some local people feed hamadryas baboons, and some populations are reported to feed off garbage found in dumps. Baboons are heavily used in biomedical research. IUCN reports that some baboons are harvested as food by native populations.
Positive Impacts: food ; ecotourism ; research and education
Baboons are African and Arabian Old World monkeys belonging to the genus Papio, part of the subfamily Cercopithecinae. The five species are some of the largest non-hominoid members of the primate order; only the mandrill and the drill are larger. Previously, the closely related gelada (genus Theropithecus) and the two species (mandrill and drill) of genus Mandrillus were grouped in the same genus, and these Old World monkeys are still often referred to as baboons in everyday speech. They range in size and weight depending on species. The Guinea baboon is 50 cm (20 in) and weighs only 14 kg (30 lb) while the largest chacma baboon can be 120 cm (47 in) and weigh 40 kg (90 lb).
Taxonomy and phylogeny
Five species of Papio are commonly recognized, although there is some disagreement about whether they are really full species or subspecies. They are P. ursinus (chacma baboon, found in southern Africa), P. papio (western, red, or Guinea baboon, found in the far western Africa), P. hamadryas (hamadryas baboon, found in the Horn of Africa and southwestern Arabia), P. anubis (olive baboon, found in the north-central African savanna) and P. cynocephalus (yellow baboon, found in south-central and eastern Africa). Many authors distinguish P. hamadryas as a full species, but regard all the others as subspecies of P. cynocephalus and refer to them collectively as "savanna baboons". This may not be helpful: it is based on the argument that the hamadryas baboon is behaviorally and physically distinct from other baboon species, and that this reflects a separate evolutionary history. However, recent morphological and genetic studies of Papio show the hamadryas baboon to be more closely related to the northern baboon species (the Guinea and olive baboons) than to the southern species (the yellow and chacma baboons).
The traditional five-form classification probably under-represents the variation within Papio. Some commentators argue that at least two more forms should be recognized, including the tiny Kinda baboon (P. cynocephalus kindae) from Zambia, DR Congo, and Angola, and the gray-footed baboon (P. ursinus griseipes) found in Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and northern South Africa. However, current knowledge of the morphological, genetic, and behavioral diversity within Papio is too poor to make any final, comprehensive judgment on this matter.
The five species of baboons in the genus Papio are:
- Genus Papio
- Hamadryas baboon, Papio hamadryas
- Guinea baboon, Papio papio
- Olive baboon, Papio anubis
- Yellow baboon, Papio cynocephalus
- Chacma baboon, Papio ursinus
Anatomy and physiology
All baboons have long, dog-like muzzles, heavy, powerful jaws with sharp canine teeth, close-set eyes, thick fur except on their muzzles, short tails, and rough spots on their protruding buttocks, called ischial callosities. These calluses are nerveless, hairless pads of skin that provide for the sitting comfort of the baboon.
All baboon species exhibit pronounced sexual dimorphism, usually in size, but also sometimes in colour or canine development. Males of the hamadryas baboon species also have large white manes.
Behavior and ecology
Baboons are terrestrial (ground dwelling) and are found in open savannah, open woodland and hills across Africa. Their diets are omnivorous, but mostly herbivorous, yet they eat insects and occasionally prey on fish, shellfish, hares, birds, vervet monkeys, and small antelopes. They are foragers and are active at irregular times throughout the day and night. They can raid human dwellings, and in South Africa, they have been known to prey on sheep and goats.
Baboons in captivity have been known to live up to 45 years, while in the wild their life expectancy is about 30 years.
Their principal predators are humans, the Nile Crocodile, the lion, both the spotted and striped hyena, the leopard and the cheetah. They are considered a difficult prey for the leopard, though, which is mostly a threat to young baboons. Large males will often confront them by flashing their eyelids, showing their teeth by yawning, making gestures, and chasing after the intruder/predator. Although they are not a prey species, Baboons have been killed by the black mamba. This usually occurs when a baboon accidentally rouses the snake.
Most baboons live in hierarchical troops. Group sizes vary between five and 250 animals (often about 50 or so), depending on specific circumstances, especially species and time of year. The structure within the troop varies considerably between hamadryas baboons and the remaining species, sometimes collectively referred to as savanna baboons. The hamadryas baboons often appear in very large groups composed of many smaller harems (one male with four or so females), to which females from elsewhere in the troop are recruited while they are still too young to breed. Other baboon species have a more promiscuous structure with a strict dominance hierarchy based on the matriline. The hamadryas baboon group will typically include a younger male, but he will not attempt to mate with the females unless the older male is removed.
Baboons can determine from vocal exchanges what the dominance relations are between individuals. When a confrontation occurs between different families or where a lower-ranking baboon takes the offensive, baboons show more interest in this exchange than those between members of the same family or when a higher-ranking baboon takes the offensive. This is because confrontations between different families or rank challenges can have a wider impact on the whole troop than an internal conflict in a family or a baboon reinforcing its dominance.
In the harems of the hamadryas baboons, the males jealously guard their females, to the point of grabbing and biting the females when they wander too far away. Despite this, some males will raid harems for females. Such situations often cause aggressive fights by the males. Visual threats are usually accompanied by these aggressive fights. This would include a quick flashing of the eyelids accompanied by a yawn to show off the teeth. Some males succeed in taking a female from another's harem, called a "takeover". In many species, infant baboons are taken by the males as hostages during fights.
Mating and birth
Baboon mating behavior varies greatly depending on the social structure of the troop. In the mixed groups of savanna baboons, each male can mate with any female. The mating order among the males depends partially on their social ranking, and fights between males are not unusual. There are, however, more subtle possibilities; in mixed groups, males sometimes try to win the friendship of females. To garner this friendship, they may help groom the female, help care for her young, or supply her with food. The probability is high that those young are their offspring. Some females clearly prefer such friendly males as mates. However, males will also take infants during fights to protect themselves from harm.
Females typically give birth after a six-month gestation, usually to a single infant. The young baboon weighs approximately 400 g and has a black epidermis when born. The females tend to be the primary caretaker of the young, although several females will share the duties for all of their offspring.
After about one year, the young animals are weaned. They reach sexual maturity in five to eight years. Baboon males leave their birth group, usually before they reach sexual maturity, whereas females are philopatric and stay in the same group their whole lives.
Relationship with humans
Herpesvirus papio family of viruses and strains infect baboons. Their effects on humans are unknown.
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