5 facts that prove we have more in common with Baboons than we think
1. Close cliques: Walk into any mess hall, and it’s sadly clear that cliques are alive and well. But new research published in Royal Society Open Science says baboons also prefer to hang out with similar baboons, also known as homophily. An author of the study, University of Cambridge’s Dr. Alecia Carter, echoed our similarities: “We hang out with people who have the same income, religion, education and so on. Essentially, it’s the same in baboons.”
2. Sisterly love: Women like to be close to other women. We walk around arms interlinked, accompany each other to the bathroom and have deep conversations that go on for hours. Female baboons have strong sisterly bonds too. Joan Silk, a UCLA professor of anthropology, determined that, “If you’re a baboon, the strength of your mother’s relationship with other females is the best predictor of whether you’ll live to have children yourself.”
3. Promiscuity: Anyone that’s watched an episode of “The Maury Show” can tell we’re not as monogamous as we’d like to think we are. Well baboons don’t pretend to be, but at least they’re promiscuous for a cause. You see, male Chacma Baboons are known for killing the babies of their rivals. Females tiptoe around infanticide by being promiscuous and confusing paternity, so it doesn’t matter who the father is.
4. Culture accumulators: Once upon a time, we thought we were really special. We thought humans were the only ones capable of acquiring and passing culture down over generations — that’s why we’re the only primates with language and culture, right? Wrong! Researchers now know that baboons are also capable of cumulative culture. (See 1. and 2. points!)
5. Stress sucks: Neither humans nor baboons are particularly good at coping with stress. It’s interesting because even though baboons don’t have predators constantly after them, they stress over their environment and social interactions — sound familiar? And stress is no bueno for both them and us. Just like how stress makes us sick, it also makes baboons sick by compromising their immune responses and reproductive systems.
And here’s where things get pretty ironic again. While baboons have few predators in the wild, humans are the biggest threat to their survival. According to the AWF, we are really good at exploiting baboons: we kill them because they’re agricultural “pests,” we sell their skins, or we stick them in unnatural laboratories for research.
We’re losing baboons for the same reasons we’re losing beloved herbivores like elephants and rhinos: we’re destroying their homes because we want to live there. Or we create projects that interfere with their habitat and we bulldoze through it so cows and livestock can move in.
At the end of the day, all of this makes me question who the real primitive species is.”