Doting Dads

Africa's adult male baboons defend their children

12-01-2003 // Laura Tangley

AMONG AFRICA'S BABOONS, papa may be a rolling stone, but that doesn't mean he's not there when the kids need him. Observing five groups of baboons living at the base of Kenya's Mount Kilimanjaro for three years, biologists discovered that adult males invariably take sides with their own offspring in disputes with other juveniles--a surprising finding given that baboons have multiple sexual partners, making it difficult for dad to even recognize his own young. Writing in Nature, the researchers suggest that males rely on birth timing, smell or some other distinctive physical trait to distinguish offspring they've sired.

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