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Male consortship behaviour in chacma baboons: the role of demographic factors and female conceptive probabilities

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There is evidence for a general relationship between male dominance rank and mating success in primates, although the strength of this relationship differs among species. In chacma baboons (Papio hamadryas ursinus) male rank is found to be of more importance than in the other savannah baboon subspecies. However, even though the priority-of-access model explains the proportion of time spent in consortship for males of different rank in chacmas, highest-ranking males usually consort less often than expected. In this study, conducted in the Drakensberg Mountains of Natal and at De Hoop in the Western Cape, we investigated why dominant males in four study troops consorted only between 50% and 75% of days that they were expected to consort according to the priority-of-access model. Consortship success of highest-ranking males was primarily dependant on the number of available oestrous females in a troop. This was likely due to costs involved in consorting which limit the amount of days that a male could spend in consortship. Females pass through several cycles before conceiving and highest-ranking males were observed to consort more often on the conceptive cycle compared to the nearest nonconceptive cycle, but this was only true for males that were already resident for several months. Recently immigrated males that became highest-ranking often consorted during nonconceptive female cycles, while older, lower-ranking males consorted during the conceptive cycles. We propose that males with longer residency have more information about reproductive state of females and thus higher reproductive success than recently immigrated males.

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