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The Ontogeny of Greeting, Grooming, and Sexual Motor Patterns in Captive Baboons (Superspecies Papio Cynocephalus)

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During the summers of 1964 and 1965, a group of approximately 85 baboons (superspecies Papio cynocephalus) was observed at close range on an island of artificial rock-work in the Chicago Zoological Park (Brookfield). The group was unusual in that it contained no adult males. Data were collected on the ontogenetic relationships of several motor patterns used in greeting, grooming, and sexual behaviors. i. Lip-smacking, a motor pattern common to all baboons on the island, probably consists of rapidly repeated sucking movements. In the newborn the lip-smacking pattern is associated with nursing and soon becomes associated with sexual arousal as well. As the infant grows older, his responses to lip-smacking adult females guide his learning of mature greeting and sexual behaviors. Several objects are associated with lip-smacking; all are pink like the female nipple, and some also resemble it in shape. These objects- the nipples and sexual skin of the female, the penis of the male, and the face and perineum of the black infant (0-6 mo. old) - are attractive to other baboons and probably contribute to group cohesion. 2. The embrace and mounting use essentially the same motor patterns. Both are derived from the grasping reflex of the infant. Which appears in a given situation depends primarily on the posture of the recipient. 3. Grooming first acquires significance for the infant when he becomes weaned from the breast. Although he may not nurse, his mother usually tolerates his attempts to groom her. Thus, whenever he is frightened or otherwise needs security, the weaned infant comes to groom instead of seeking his mother's breast. Although the usual grooming patterns are only abstracted remnants of the patterns originally displayed by the infant as he nursed and was weaned, some less common grooming patterns- saliva-licking, oral-grooming, plucking, and hair-pulling - retain more detail and thus show more clearly their infantile derivation.

Affiliations: 1: University of Chicago and Chicago Zoological Park, Brookfield, Illinois, U.S.A.


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