How Stress Levels and Social Relationships of Adult Baboons Can Affect Their Offspring

Baboons, like humans, can be highly affected by stress.

When stress levels rise, they can have a wide range of health effects both in the short term and the long term. Stress can be caused in a variety of ways, one of them of them being social status. This post talks about the effects of stress on the body and the impacts social relationships can have on stress and families of baboons.

According to Robert Sapolsky from Stanford University, baboons and humans that are unhealthy can sometimes have one common reason, and that is heightened levels of stress hormones. However, neither humans nor baboons have any real stress causing factors in their lives. Baboons only have to work for a couple of hours to be able to get their food, and there aren’t many predators that they need to hide from. So where does all this stress come from? The answer that Sapolsky proposed is that they create it themselves. With all this free time, baboons are left to create stress for themselves, and for others in their group. All of this stress can have a very bad effect on their health. Their reproductive system doesn’t work as well, they have high blood pressure, and they experience more anxiety.

One of the groups that Sapolsky found to be most susceptible to this stress is low ranking baboons. Since they are so low in the dominance hierarchy, they have more things that they can worry about and stress over. This may suggest why lower ranking baboons are more likely to have restrictive parenting styles. This extra anxiety coupled with a reproductive system that isn’t as good may lead a parent to be more careful with their children and care for them longer than a permissive parent.

Another factor that causes baboons to develop very high stress levels is social isolation. Sapolsky found that baboons that are not as socially cDSC_1049onnected are seen to have more stress than even those low ranking baboons. On the opposite end, baboons that are more social are not as stressed. It has even been found in a study done by the University of Pennsylvania and UCLA that mothers that are more social are better mothers. The children of social mothers are about one and a half times more likely to survive to adulthood than those of the least social mothers. Since these social mothers get more of their children to reproductive age, they see more of their genes being passed along and therefore demonstrate an evolutionary advantage to having stronger social relationships in a baboon society.




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