Social development in baboons is heritable
Mentors: Liz Lange, Ph.D. | Susan Alberts, Ph.D.
Departments of Biology and Evolutionary Anthropology
Social behavior is an important facet of baboon development and a determinant of fitness in adulthood. However, it is not yet known what environmental or genetic factors drive the variation observed in the timing of social development. We hypothesized that both genetic and environmental factors would affect the timing of social development. To examine the role of genetic and environmental effects on age at first groom and first agonism in wild baboons (Papio cynocephalus), we used environmental and demographic data from the Amboseli Baboon Research Project (ABRP). We then constructed several nested animal models to identify the best-fitting model via model selection. For age at first groom, the best fitting model included genetic effects, sex, and social group size, suggesting that these factors are determinant of the timing of this developmental milestone. These findings demonstrate that age at first groom is heritable, yet environmental effects are also important.