Reconstruction of parentage in a band of captive hamadryas baboons

David Glenn Smith, Sreetharan Kanthaswamy, Michael Disbrow, Joseph L. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The male leaders of free-ranging harem groups of hamadryas baboons are believed to mate exclusively with the female members of their harems, which typically contain no more than 2-3 females. Using no-parent parentage exclusion analysis (PEA) we identified the paternity of 25 offspring born in a captive band of hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas hamadryas) containing five adult males, each with a stable harem of about five females. Nine of 13 microsatellite (SSR) loci known to be highly polymorphic in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) were successful in identifying the sires of all but two offspring without knowledge of the dams' genotypes, and we were able to determine the sires of all offspring when the dams' genotypes were considered. Mating success of the males ranged between 2 and 7 offspring and bore no clear relationship to the males' ages, ranks or the number of females in their harems. The males sired 7 of the 25 offspring with females outside their own harems, with higher-ranking males exhibiting greater success monopolizing access to females in their harem than lower-ranking males did. More surprisingly, the females assigned as the dams of 14 of the 25 offspring could be unequivocally excluded from parentage. The identity of the true dam could be determined for each of these 14 offspring using single-parent PEA and was uncorrelated with the ranks of these offsprings' sires and whether the offspring were born to dams outside the sires' harem groups. The combined effect of this extraharem mating and kidnapping was that only 12 of the 25 offspring were raised within their sires' harem groups. A second group of hamadryas baboons of identical structure exhibited the same high incidences of infant kidnapping and mating outside the harem group. It is unclear whether these behaviors provide an adaptive advantage or represent aberrant behavior resulting from captivity or other circumstances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-429
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Primatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Harem
  • Kidnapping
  • Papio hamadryas hamadryas
  • Random mating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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