Tue Oct 2, 2012 11:28 AM ET
Like humans, baboons with good friends often enjoy better health and longer lives. Now research suggests the strength of a baboon's social circle depends less on its rank than its personality -- and being nice pays off.
"These results have allowed us to, for the first time in a wild primate, link personality characteristics, social skill and reproductive success," researcher Robert Seyfarth, of the University of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. "By being a nice baboon, you increase the likelihood of having strong social bonds, which in turn translates to a better chance of passing on your genes."
In baboons' hierarchical societies, females inherit their rank from their moms, which determines their access to food and mates. But a higher rank and a bigger network of kin does not always lead to greater fitness and reproductive success, the researchers said.
"In fact, dominance rank is not as good a predictor of reproductive outcomes as a close network of social relationships and stable relationships over time," Seyfarth explained. "So our question became 'What predicts having a strong network?'"