Physical and Social Changes From Infancy to Adolescence and Connection to Humans

Just like every animal on Earth, baboons go through many physical changes during adolescence. These changes can be both compared and contrasted to the changes that humans go through during puberty.

In highly social mammals, such as baboons and humans, the timing of these physical changes depends on the animal’s social environment as well as ecological conditions, access to nutritional sources, differences in sociodemographic factors, and genetic differences between individuals. This is easily comparable to humans, because these same factors influence humans, and the changes that occur in them, during their adolescence.

Another very DSC_2399important similarity to note is that males go through these changes after females. The same happens for humans. Also, there are plenty of differences in their physical changes as well. Similar to humans, females go through a type of menstruation, often referred to as swelling. According to Notre Dame’s Amboseli Research Blog (amboselibaboons.nd.edu) this happens around 4 ½ years old in baboons, when they are about 75% of their adult weight. These ratios match up with those of humans. However, a strikingly different social reaction to the swelling is what differentiates baboons and humans. The female baboons like to show off their first swelling, as though they are proud. Females will also experience a lot of social challenges during adolescence, such as trying to raise their social status.

DSC_9475_1Dr. Elizabeth Archie also explained in a talk to Mrs. Harshberger’s biology class how male baboons will experience very different social changes when compared to humans. They tend to distance themselves from the other baboons, and become lonely. Their level of physical fitness will pose an important role when this happens. If they have not yet gone through all of the physical development when they distance themselves, they have a much larger risk of being attacked.

Humans and baboons share a lot of physical changes when going through adolescence, but the social changes are where they contrast. This helps evolutionary scientists understand and make hypothesis about how humans would react if the type of social challenges that baboons face were put in our way. The physical changes provide a great amount of evidence for scientists to support the theory of evolution. It also can represent a parallel, how those in America tend to go through the changes sooner than those in a place like Africa. Understanding these parallels is what helps scientists make new discoveries.

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A group of baboons walks across the grasslands. Photo by Kevin McNulty
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