Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Baboons In Mourning Seek Comfort Among Friends

Date:
January 31, 2006
Source:
University of Pennsylvania
Summary:
According to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, baboons physiologically respond to bereavement in ways similar to humans, with an increase in stress hormones called glucocorticoids. Baboons can lower their glucocorticoid levels through friendly social contact, expanding their social network after the loss of specific close companions.

Sylvia grooms Sierra's cheek.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Pennsylvania

When Sylvia the baboon lost Sierra, her closest grooming partner and daughter, to a lion, she responded in a way that would be considered very human-like: she looked to friends for support. According to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, baboons physiologically respond to bereavement in ways similar to humans, with an increase in stress hormones called glucocorticoids. Baboons can lower their glucocorticoid levels through friendly social contact, expanding their social network after the loss of specific close companions.

Related Articles


"At the time of Sierra's death, we considered Sylvia to be the queen of mean. She is a very high-ranking, 23 year-old monkey who was, at best, disdainful of females other than Sierra," said Anne Engh, a postdoctoral researcher in Penn's Department of Biology. "With Sierra gone, Sylvia experienced what could only really be described as depression, corresponding with an increase in her glucocorticoid levels."

Engh works with Penn biologist Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth, a professor in Penn's Department of Psychology. For the last 14 years, Cheney and Seyfarth have followed a troop of more than 80 free-ranging baboons in the Okavango Delta of Botswana. Their research explores the mechanisms that might be the basis of primate social relationships and how such relationships may have influenced the development of human social relationships, intelligence and language.

To study the response of stress among baboons, Engh and her colleagues examined the glucocorticoid levels and grooming behavior of females in the troop to see how closely they resemble patterns seen in humans. Their findings were published in a recent article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences.

Grooming, a friendly behavior where baboons clean each other's fur, is the primary means by which baboons strengthen social bonds. According to Engh, while the death of a close family member was clearly stressful over the 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."

Engh's research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health. Co-authors on the paper include Jacinta Beehner, Thore Bergman, Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth from Penn; Patricia Whitten from Emory University; and Rebekah Hoffmeier of the Moremi Baboon Project in Botswana.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Pennsylvania. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Pennsylvania. "Baboons In Mourning Seek Comfort Among Friends." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 January 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060130154735.htm>.
University of Pennsylvania. (2006, January 31). Baboons In Mourning Seek Comfort Among Friends. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060130154735.htm
University of Pennsylvania. "Baboons In Mourning Seek Comfort Among Friends." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060130154735.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins