Bear baboons eavesdrop on their conspecifics during sex to gauge the condition of their relationship. Photo: Harald Süpfle, Wikipedia
Read aloud Baboon men eavesdrop on couples having sex and close the noise to the current state of relationship between the partners, American biologists have observed. In this way, even males with a low social rank in the mating females come to the train: In short breaks or small quarrels between the partners, they immediately approach the female and mate with him, as the study in a group of wild bear baboons in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana shows. Couple relationships in baboons are quite complex: While the females are in close partnership with single males in their fertile phase? usually the most dominant? one in which the male practically does not give way to the female from the side. However, these connections are only temporary, they may already be over after a few hours or even last several days to weeks. In addition, there are always short phases in relationships in which a dispute between the partners breaks out or the female is briefly separated from the male. Only in such phases do the low-ranking males of the group have the chance to mate with the females.

When such a phase occurs, the males apparently decide by ear, the researchers conclude from their study. They had set up two loudspeakers to the left and right of a baboon, each twenty yards away, and let out the grunts of one dominant male and the other the typical copulation screams of a female. Six out of nine test monkeys instantly dropped the food they were working on and headed straight for the supposed female. The baboons had probably concluded from the distance between the noise sources that the couple had separated in the short term and the female just proved his favor to another male, the researchers explain. On the other hand, if the sounds suggested that the female was having sex with her own partner, the other males did not respond to the screams.

The results support the suggestion that baboons and other monkeys assess the social relationships within their group through a range of parameters, at least in male-female partnerships spatial proximity between two animals being one of the most crucial. In addition, they are clearly in a position to realize that many of these relationships exist only for a limited time, according to the researchers.

Catherine Crockford (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia) et al .: Animal Behavior, Vol. 73, p. 885 ddp / science.de? Ilka Lehnen-Beyel advertisement

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