Baboons Observed to Conceal Sexual Infidelity

the daily dish More on PawNation: Baboons, Exotic, Psychology, Weird
Now that Valentine's Day is behind us, let's shine a light on the darker side of love. Recent studies have shown that baboons (and possibly other species) not only practice sexual infidelity, but actively take steps to conceal their illicit affairs, according to LiveScience. In other words, humans aren't the only animals who cheat on each other and cover it up.

Gelada baboons live in social units made up of up to a dozen females, some subordinate males, and a dominant male who has exclusive sexual rights to all of the females. Naturally, being subordinate doesn't make the other males asexual, and it is not unknown for them to have sex with females in their unit. But baboons typically have loud sex, which the dominant male should easily be able to detect. So how do their subordinates get away with it?

The subordinate males, scientists have now been able to observe, practice tactical deception. This is different from functional deception, which occurs when a subject seizes an opportunity presented to it, like mating with a "forbidden" partner when no one else is around to see or hear it. Tactical deception describes an additional step: the cheating baboons keep quiet during their no-no sex, in order to not be detected. Pretty sneaky.

Those of you with true hearts may be pleased to learn that the primitive tactic doesn't always work. About one out of five times, dominant males catch their subordinates cheating, and punishment is meted out. But all of this behavior may contain clues to our own evolution. "This topic is important, since it will shed a light on the evolution of human cheating and punishment," said Liesbeth Sterck, a behavioral biologist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Although this fresh evidence of tactical deception has been observed in only the Gelada baboons, it's not just us and them who betray each other and lie about it, according to lead researcher Aliza le Roux, a behavioral ecologist at the University of the Free State in South Africa. "I'm sure it happens in quite a few other species, and not just primates," she said. We're not sure if that makes us feel better or worse.


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Oh, for Pete's sake, it's "we and they," man!

February 17 2013 at 8:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Maybe there is something to Darwin's theory, and if so I guess we haven't evolved too much beyond being baboons.

February 16 2013 at 10:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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