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Baboons in mourning seek comfort among friends

short term, the females they studied appeared to compensate for this loss by broadening and strengthening their grooming networks. As they resumed grooming, their glucocorticoid levels returned to normal.

"Without Sierra, Sylvia really had nobody else," Engh said. "So great was her need for social bonding that Sylvia began grooming with a female of a much lower status, behavior that would otherwise be beneath her."

Through her study, Engh was able to track patterns in stress of the female baboons over time through their glucocorticoid levels. Their stress levels increased most often during events when their lives, the lives of their offspring and their social rankings were at risk. The leading cause of death among adult baboons is predation, usually from leopards and lions. The stress levels of female baboons increased most noticeably when a predator killed a close companion, such as a grooming partner or offspring. If they merely witness another baboon die they do not become as agitated.

"Our findings do not necessarily suggest that baboons experience grief like humans do, but they do offer evidence of the importance of social bonds amongst baboons," Engh said. "Like humans, baboons seem to rely on friendly relationships to help them cope with stressful situations."


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Contact: Greg Lester
glester@pobox.upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
30-Jan-2006


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