Helpful moms, sisters push female baboons up hierarchy

New York, A supportive mother and helpful sisters are key to female baboons reaching the higher echelons of their social strata, a study indicates.

A female baboon's social status is dictated not by size or strength, but by the rank of her mother - the higher the mother is ranked, the higher-ranked her daughter will be.

Females born to high-ranking mothers are guaranteed a good spot in the pecking order, whereas females born to low-ranking mothers are usually stuck with their lot.

"Daughters of high-ranking females generally mature more quickly, produce more offspring, and have better access to food and mates. It is like being born with a silver spoon in your mouth," said Susan Alberts, biology professor from Duke University.

Fathers and brothers had surprisingly little influence on the social status of their female kin.

It was possibly because they tend to mate with multiple female partners, making their allegiances murkier than they are for females.

"It is no surprise that having mom around is a good thing. Mothers intervene on behalf of their daughters in 'playground spats' over food or mates, and thus help ensure their daughters' place in the pecking order," Alberts maintained.

Having the support of sisters proved to be a big help too. Sisters give each other a boost by ganging up on unrelated rivals.

"Interestingly, older sisters help their younger sisters out when it comes to rising above females from other families, but when it comes to rising in rank within the family, older sisters are not much help," researchers revealed.

The study appeared in the journal Animal Behaviour.

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