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Biotech Science

The Mellow Baboon 36

obehave writes " You've seen life in a baboon troop on TV: the epitome of nasty, brutish, and short. So what happens when a baboon troop loses its nastiest, most brutish members? PLoS Biology, an open-access science journal, reports the curious story of a baboon troop which lost the nastiest half of its male population through natural causes. The troop became different and the difference persisted through a generational change. Here's the synopsis, the full article, and a commentary."
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The Mellow Baboon

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:30PM (#8860855)

    New baboon tribe moves in next door which is composed of more violent members, which eventually forces our friendly baboon tribe to become more violent, or be wiped out.

    Then we are back to the initial position again.

    Of course this was the position of many Reaganites in the 1980s that the USA had gone soft on the Soviet Union, and was therefore in more danger.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You sir are a BABOON!

      "obligatory Simpsons remark"
    • by TuringTest ( 533084 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:27PM (#8861502) Journal
      But whether there would be a universal call for a rational, less violent baboon culture all over the world, and all tribes accepted it, then the overall violence of the whole baboonity would descend.

      Society is not just the phenotype of a given species genetic inheritance - is a dynamic, evolving system.

    • another theory (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:58PM (#8861929) Journal
      What if the stressed out females and lower ranking females defect from their aggresive leaders and join the friendly troop?

      Suddenly you got 1 big friendly supportive of each other group who are not constantly stressed and so rested for any trouble and 1 small tribe with no females and constant infighting.

      I remember another documentary on an ape troop. It was ruled by a male and a luitenant in a laid back kind of way. He took the top females his luitenant the lower ranking. He was basically a nice old guy. Also old but because he had a luitenant with everything to lose and nothing to gain and the support of the females he held out until finally he was overthrown by a new aggressive male.

      The new male had no backing (was in fact constantly fighting with the other hopefulls) and no tact. He raped (compared to the old ruler) the females and threatned their offsping (the old males and his luitenant offspring). It didn't take long for him to end up severly wounded when the females decided enough was enough and ganged up on him. With no aid and the females protecting their young against him he barely got away with his life.

      The end result was that the former luitenant now became the leader who continuened the laid back peacefull method. I think the old leader became his luitenant but note sure.

      As you can tell I am not really a story teller but it did show clearly that this group choose the softer option. Not exactly democracy but certainly a peasant revolt took place here.

      People put up with a lot until they come to the point where they got nothing to loose and everything to gain. Apes do migrate between groups if the group they are in becomes to dangerous for them. There are documented cases of "good" ape leaders protecting the weakest of their troop from the middle ranking. This could be seen as making sure that while their must be a pecking order you also can not afford to loose members at the bottom for fear that one day the top is the bottom.

    • Beware the baboon tribe that throws bones and worships rectangular black obelisks....
  • cool. (Score:1, Funny)

    by torpor ( 458 )
    we^H^Hthey now have a justification for the creation of a master aryan baboon race.
  • Heh... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Copperhead ( 187748 ) <talbrech.speakeasy@net> on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:52PM (#8861078) Homepage
    Thought it said, "its nastiest, most british members". That was a weird image...

  • Yeah, well. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Elwood P Dowd ( 16933 ) <> on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:54PM (#8861106) Journal
    I'd be a lot more relaxed if there were 50% as many men where I lived, too. Unclear whether that's still the case after their "generational change."
    • Re:Yeah, well. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cowens ( 30752 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:30PM (#8861524)
      The percentage of males is now the same as it was before the aggresive ones died off from eating bad meat taken from a nearby garbage dump. There doesn't seem to be much difference between Male-Male interaction in the Forest Troop and the Talek Troop (who live 50km away). There is a major difference in the Male-Female interactions though. Females in the Forest Troop "did not seem to treat transfer males in a contingent manner" (tended to treat them like they were already part of the tribe). And all of the baboons were groomed more often leading to a less stressful environment.

      Now for my unfounded opinion:

      With over fifty percent of the males dead the females of the troop had lure more males in and so they started treating newcomers nicely and made sure the males already in the troop were happy. This behaviour doesn't seem to be costing them anything so it is continuing.
      • So if your average less-agressive slashdot denizen can figure out a way to get all the agressive males to eat lethal meat (mad cow barbecue?), it means the females would then have no choice but to bond with and mate with the surviving less-agressive slashdot-reading males?

        I'm sure somewhere out there is a horny slashdot reader already dreaming up an empirical test of your "unfounded opinion"

        • Bad hotdogs at some lame sporting event sounds like a sure thing strategy.
        • Re:Yeah, well. (Score:2, Insightful)

          by cowens ( 30752 )

          I'm sure somewhere out there is a horny slashdot reader already dreaming up an empirical test of your "unfounded opinion"

          The downside is that it will only get them back rubs since the males aren't getting any more sex than before: "Sexual behavior did not differ between F93-96 and T93-98/F79-82."

          F79-82 - Forest Troop before the death of the agressive males
          F93-96 - Forest Troop 7-8 years after the death of the aggressive males
          T93-98 - Talek Troop in the same time period

      • Re:Yeah, well. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timjdot ( 638909 )
        Interesting proposition. Will be interesting to see how things evolve in a few years. I think the general idea of partnering amongst less dominant individuals is socially what the Internet makes possible: that is, individuals (e.g. open sourcers) can now work together for common goals rather than be subservient to dominant entities. I also noticed that the human birth rate seems 1.05 M to F and assume violent physical aggression is a male trait. Surely as more mature males compete then violence will resum
        • Re:Yeah, well. (Score:3, Informative)

          by sgt101 ( 120604 )
          Isn't anyone else surprised that the critters have never evolved new and better fighting styles? I mean a human in a forest could within an hour create enough weapons to fight off a single baboon or two (well, maybe not a chair-bound worker from America but you get my point :-). Why haven't these critters learned anything from humans?

          Because they are Baboons, and Baboons are not real bright.

          Ok flippancy aside; no one knows is the real answer. But one theory is that the ability to figure out how to crack
  • You've seen life in a baboon troop on TV
    I can't say that I have. How about a summary of what a baboon troop is?
    • Re:Summary? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Elwood P Dowd ( 16933 ) <> on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:47PM (#8861734) Journal
      Baboons are more aggressive than most primates. They're larger and stronger than chimps, but chimps can team up to kill a larger baboon. Baboons are quadrapedal, and based on the TV I've watched, they mostly stick to the ground. I've seen them in trees fighting chimps.

      I don't know what their social structure is exactly like, although apparently it's groups that include multiple males, females, and offspring. I don't know if they send adolescent males to other troupes, which happens with some primates.

      Baboons look like this []. Big teeth. Mean. Chimps, technically, are just as mean. But they look like they're nicer.

      Chimps -> Baboons


      Humans -> Klingons

      • Re:Summary? (Score:3, Informative)

        by PateraSilk ( 668445 )
        Actually, baboons are a little smaller than chimps:

        Baboon []

        Chimp []

        Although the big males of the troop are pretty big, they're still 7 kg smaller than big male chimps.

        I still wouldn't wanna mess with one, though.

      • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @02:06PM (#8862053) Journal
        Live as a low ranking male just isn't much fun. So if the current leader is in his prime and there are a couple of other hopefulls, it might just be wiser to try to get into an other group where the leadership is a bit past it and the competition is a bit less.

        Baboons are far better predators then chimps. Basically baboons are a top predator. Meaning they eat and are not eaten.

        Chimps are predators as well but more human. Meaning a while group of chimps can catch one small monkey but they do it by teamwork.

        If you are in africa and you encounter a chimp the chimp will run. if you are in africa and you encounter a baboon you better hope it ain't hungry or pissed off.

        • Basically baboons are a top predator. Meaning they eat and are not eaten

          Almost but not quite: any large cat will attack and eat a baboon if given half a chance. Some Leopards specialize in them, actually. It is not a completly safe meal and there are reports of stalking leopards getting killed by their prey.

          Lions, however, are no contest ...
      • Humans -> Reality


        Klingons -> Fiction ...but nice try. ;-)
      • I'm being completely serious here.

        I recall reading (maybe in Discover) that Baboon social structure and Human social structure in a business office are remarkably similar. Knowing this and using the knowledge indaily application can be quite handy.

        so, to revise your diagram:

        Chimps-> Baboons-> Office Workers
    • Stuart Whitman movie (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Sands of the Kalahari []

  • by aminorex ( 141494 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @05:48PM (#8863678) Homepage Journal
    When my beautiful, brilliant, charming daughter
    was born, I finally realized the meaning of
    Hobbes' phrase "nasty, brutish, and short".

    Of course she wasn't beautiful at the start.
    She was bloody, slimy, and looked like Winston
    Churchill. But I'm told they all do.
  • It's the evolution of the metrosexual!
  • At last... (Score:2, Insightful)

    Semi-scientific support for mass exterminating jerks.

Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.