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The social relationships between the male gelada baboon (Theropithecus gelada) and the females of his reproductive unit are examined. A male does not necessarity interact with all his females, but rather tends to have a single predominant social partner, even though failure to interact with his females is likely to to result in his eviction as harem-holder by another male. Analysis of the characteristics of the male's main partner female reveals that these females tend to be those who lack female relatives with whom to groom. The dominant female can monopolize the male if she wants to, but she usually does so in wild groups only when she has no alternative related female partners available. The male's interactions with non-partner females tend to be more perfunctory and one-sided than those with his partner female, with non-partner females showing little interest in interacting with the male. The male's interactions with his main partner are similar to those that characterize close female-female relationships. In social terms, the male seems to function as an alternative (though less desirable) source of coalitionary support for females who lack female relatives with whom to form long-term alliances. These results suggest that an animal cannot always do what is best for it, because its behaviour is constrained by conflicts of interest between its own social strategies and those of its potential interactees. © 1983.

Original publication




Journal article


Animal Behaviour

Publication Date





565 - 575