Ageing and social rank effects on the reproductive system of free-ranging yellow baboons (Papio cynocephalus) at Mikumi National Park, Tanzania

Samuel K. Wasser, Guy W. Norton, Ramon J. Rhine, Nancy Klein, Sonia Kleindorfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Ageing and social status effects on reproductive condition are examined in 106 wild female baboons from 1974 to 1997. The mean duration of each reproductive state (follicular and luteal phase components, pregnancy and lactation) was examined per female, using a repeated measures analysis of variance across each of four age classes (3-6, 7-10, 11-14, and 15-20+ year olds) and dominance rank quartiles. The sex-skin swelling portion of the follicular phase increased whereas the fully swollen portion decreased in duration with advancing age and with low dominance rank. The detumescing portion of the luteal phase increased with advancing age, being most pronounced in lowest ranking females. The number of cycles to conception decreased with age, with no dominance rank effect. However, owing to variation in lactation duration, the interbirth interval was unaffected by age but was shorter in high ranking females. The miscarriage rate was unaffected by age but increased as female rank declined. Age and rank effects became significantly more pronounced in response to a crash in the study population between 1987 and 1993. In conclusion, age- and rank-related reproductive changes in baboons, like those in humans, appear to represent attempts to compensate endocrinologically for accelerated ovarian atresia and increased environmental hardship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-438
Number of pages9
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Age
  • Baboons
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Reproductive status
  • Social rank


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