Tuesday, April 2

Old Drifters

Since reading and writing about prairie dog dispersal, my thoughts have returned to some odd events which took place among the baboons some time ago.

I wrote about these occurrences in a some old posts. To summarize: two old male baboons, Chester and Mortimer, both moved from the main troop to the second troop, higher up on the mountain. In Chester's case, he was following Eunice, his favorite female. Mortimer's motives were less clear. Eventually, both returned to the main troop. This was not the first time the older males have pulled stunts like this, and it won't be the last. Although, there won't be many more opportunities for these two in particular. They're getting pretty old.

At the time, I wondered if there were any examples of behavior like this in the literature. The prairie dog article sheds some fresh light on these baboons' behavior. I don't think these baboons are dispersing for the same reason as prairie dogs, but I think it is likely that mid to late-life dispersal may be more common, and perhaps systematic, than researchers have been inclined to believe.

For my baboons, the odd origin of these troops (they were all one big troop many years ago when the population was smaller) muddies the water. These behaviors might not even be valid dispersals. However, it is difficult to say if these males would leave the area if they had the option, for baboons in Tokai can't disperse beyond the forest without encountering serious resistance from human populations. Or, as I am fond of considering, they might just be outliers.

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