Mate guarding constrains foraging activity of male baboons

Susan C. Alberts, Jeanne Altmann, Michael L. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Scopus citations


For many species, mate guarding results in dramatic departures from normal behaviour that reflect compromised attention to feeding and other activities. Such departures have previously been difficult to document in primates, however. Data were gathered on two aspects of male behaviour that were predicted to be constrained during consortships, individual travel distance and duration of feeding bouts, for wild male baboons, Papio cynocephalus, in and out of mate-guarding episodes. In each case, consorting males were compared with themselves outside of consortships, and, in the case of distance travelled, they were compared also with non- consorting males matched for sample time and location. Males travelled significantly shorter distances while consorting than while not consorting, with the result that consorting males travelled distances similar to those travelled by females. Males also had significantly shorter feeding bouts while consorting. The shorter travel distances and feeding bouts experienced by consorting males may represent important constraints on male foraging activity, and probably result in decreased energy intake during mate guarding. Seasonal and non-seasonal breeding patterns will have different consequences for the magnitude of fluctuations in energy stores and depletions experienced during mate guarding, and costs of mate guarding in species that breed non-seasonally will be more difficult to document because they are necessarily smaller and temporally dispersed. When considered across the lifespan, however, mate guarding costs to non-seasonal breeders may equal or exceed costs to seasonal breeders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1269-1277
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1996


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