A male baboon's dominance gives him babies, but costs him years

Tuesday, April 6, 2021
three baboons in the wild

Teeth-baring, glaring confrontations are a normal part of being the boss male baboon. A new study shows that the guys at the top will age faster as a result of constantly having to defend their higher status. (Courtney L. Fitzpatrick)

Some guys have it all: the muscle, the power, the high social status, the accelerated aging.

But wait. Faster aging? Who wants that? For male baboons, it’s the price they pay to be at the top.

New research appearing April 6 in eLife by Jenny Tung, associate professor of evolutionary anthropology and biology at Duke University, and her colleagues shows that male baboons that climb the social ladder age faster than males with lower social standing. If a male drops in social status, his estimated rate of aging drops as well.

Using blood samples from 245 wild baboons in the Amboseli ecosystem in Kenya, the team analyzed chemical modifications to DNA known as DNA methylation marks.

Read more in Duke Today