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Mon May 11, 2020, 12:04 PM

Dead baboons and lockdown protests

Last edited Mon May 11, 2020, 12:55 PM - Edit history (1)

The book "A Primate's memoir" tells the story of a researcher studying the behavior of baboons on East Africa. I recall one story in particular.

A local safari lodge was serving steaks from cattle infected with tuberculosis. The meat scraps were left out and found by the baboons, who considered them a delicacy. Consistent with baboon social rules, the dominant (most aggressive) males consumed the scraps themselves. The resulting outbreak of tuberculosis kills off these most aggressive "alpha" males.

The result changes the social dynamics of the troop. The surviving baboons were the females and less aggressive "beta" male baboons.

The following quote from a research paper summarizes the results:

In his book A Primate's Memoir, Sapolsky studied the activities and lifestyle of the Forest Troop to explore the relationship between stress and disease. In typical baboon fashion, the males behaved badly, angling either to assume or maintain dominance with higher ranking males or engaging in bloody battles with lower ranking males, which often tried to overthrow the top baboon by striking tentative alliances with fellow underlings. Females were often harassed and attacked. Internecine feuds were routine. Through a heartbreaking twist of fate, the most aggressive males in the Forest Troop were wiped out. The males, which had taken to foraging in an open garbage pit adjacent to a tourist lodge, had contracted bovine tuberculosis, and most died between 1983 and 1986. Their deaths drastically changed the gender composition of the troop, more than doubling the ratio of females to males, and by 1986 troop behavior had changed considerably as well; males were significantly less aggressive.

After the deaths, Sapolsky stopped observing the Forest Troop until 1993. Surprisingly, even though no adult males from the 19831986 period remained in the Forest Troop in 1993 (males migrate after puberty), the new males exhibited the less aggressive behavior of their predecessors. Around this time, Sapolsky and Share also began observing another troop, called the Talek Troop. The Talek Troop, along with the pre-TB Forest Troop, served as controls for comparing the behavior of the post-1993 Forest Troop. The authors found that while in some respects male to male dominance behaviors and patterns of aggression were similar in both the Forest and control troops, there were differences that significantly reduced stress for low ranking males, which were far better tolerated by dominant males than were their counterparts in the control troops. The males in the Forest Troop also displayed more grooming behavior, an activity that's decidedly less stressful than fighting. Analyzing blood samples from the different troops, Sapolsky and Share found that the Forest Troop males lacked the distinctive physiological markers of stress, such as elevated levels of stress-induced hormones, seen in the control troops.


From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC387823/

I think of this story whenever I hear about aggressive macho types refusing to social distance, refusing to wear masks, attacking pandemic restrictions on gatherings and otherwise flaunting their disregard for Covid-19 risks.

Maybe *they* are culling the herd just as the aggressive baboon males did.

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Reply Dead baboons and lockdown protests (Original post)
DBoon May 2020 OP
WhiteTara May 2020 #1
tblue37 May 2020 #2

Response to DBoon (Original post)

Mon May 11, 2020, 12:25 PM

1. Perhaps I'm insensitive, but

I consider this to be a gene pool cleansing and the willfully ignorant will die.

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Response to DBoon (Original post)

Mon May 11, 2020, 12:46 PM

2. I also thought of this story when the aggressive antilockdown protests began. nt

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