Hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas) are well-known for the flexible, multilevel social structure distinguishing them from other species of the genus Papio. The evolution of this social structure has often been attributed to the scarce and widely dispersed distribution of resources in hamadryas habitats, but such an association between food availability and social structure in hamadryas baboons has never been shown quantitatively. Additionally, several studies suggest that hamadryas baboons use their home range unevenly, corresponding to the location of important resources. In this dissertation I quantified the distribution and abundance of resources in the home range of a band of hamadryas baboons at the Filoha site in Awash National Park, Ethiopia, and systematically investigated the relationship between resource availability and changes in the baboons’ multilevel social structure, home range use, and travel patterns.
I surveyed the vegetation structure of the Filoha region, quantifying the density and distribution of resources in the home range of Band 1 of the Filoha hamadryas population. From March 2005 through February 2006, I conducted all-day follows of Band 1, during which I recorded the baboons’ travel routes and quantified spatial cohesion at each level of hamadryas social structure.
Unlike other known hamadryas sites, the Filoha region includes permanent hot springs and doum palm fruit, a preferred food resource, in proximity to a commonly used sleeping cliff. Band 1 had a large home range of at least 38.6 km2 and traveled an average of 8.3 km each day, despite both the high availability of doum palm fruit and the presence of a permanent water source near the Filoha cliff. The baboons at Filoha also still displayed the multilevel social structure typical of hamadryas even though resource distribution did not necessitate breaking up into smaller units to obtain sufficient food during most of the year. Band 1 at Filoha, however, exhibited greater plasticity with regard to its social system than its ranging patterns. The large band and clan sizes at Filoha compared with those at other hamadryas sites likely reflect the high abundance and availability of doum palm fruit.
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