The differences in rates of puberty between racial/subspecial groups

It has been shown that some subspecies of baboons start puberty earlier than others. This trend has also been shown in racial groups in humans.

According to ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, Amboseli National Park is at the intersection of the living areas of two different subspecies of baboons. Anubis baboons live more towards the north and west of Amboseli, with yellow baboons towards the south and east. Because Amboseli is at the intersection of these two zones, most of the baboons that live in Amboseli are hybrids between the yellow and anubis subspecies.

An anubis (or olive) baboon. Image by Muhammad Mahdi Karim and courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
An anubis (or olive) baboon. Image by Muhammad Mahdi Karim and courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The same source states that, “in Amboseli… animals with more anubis ancestry [sexually] mature earlier than those with more yellow ancestry.” It can thus be inferred that pure anubis baboons enter puberty earlier than those of pure yellow ancestry.

Surprisingly, a similar phenomenon can be observed in humans. However, because there are no subspecies of humans, the comparisons are made using racial groups.

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A group of yellow baboons. Image by Kevin McNulty

According to a study published on aappublications.org, “Non-Hispanic black girls had an earlier sexual development for pubic hair and breast development… than Mexican American or non-Hispanic white girls…Non-Hispanic black boys also had earlier median and mean ages for sexual maturity stages than the non-Hispanic white and Mexican American boys.”

These studies indicate a definite relationship between subspecies of baboons and racial groups of humans. This is a curious relationship because racial groups are not subspecies, nor are the two very similar. Subspecies of baboons are often very different from each other in appearance, whereas the only major, directly observable differences between human racial groups are skin color, hair color, and, to a lesser degree, eye color.

Science should continue to investigate the similarities and differences between racial groups and subspecies because we may find other relationships, perhaps in disease rates, fertility rates, or other data that could be used to improve the quality of life for humans and potentially baboons.

Check out this video by Manav Jairam for a bit more about baboon subspecies.

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