Puberty and dispersal in a wild primate population
Onyango, Patrick O
Gesquiere, Laurence R
Alberts, Susan C
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This article is part of a Special Issue “Puberty and Adolescence”. The onset of reproduction is preceded by a host of organismal adjustments and transformations, involving morphological, physiological, and behavioral changes. In highly social mammals, including humans and most nonhuman primates, the timing and nature of maturational processes are affected by the animal's social milieu as well as its ecology. Here, we review a diverse set of findings on how maturation unfolds in wild baboons in the Amboseli basin of southern Kenya, and we place these findings in the context of other reports of maturational processes in primates and other mammals. First, we describe the series of events and processes that signal maturation in female and male baboons. Sex differences in age at both sexual maturity and first reproduction documented for this species are consistent with expectations of life history theory; males mature later than females and exhibit an adolescent growth spurt that is absent or minimal in females. Second, we summarize what we know about sources of variance in the timing of maturational processes including natal dispersal. In Amboseli, individuals in a food-enhanced group mature earlier than their wild-feeding counterparts, and offspring of high-ranking females mature earlier than offspring of low-ranking females. We also report on how genetic admixture, which occurs in Amboseli between two closely related baboon taxa, affects individual maturation schedules.