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In many animals, variance in male mating success is strongly correlated with male dominance rank or some other measure of fighting ability. Studies in primates, however, have varied greatly in whether they detect a relationship between male dominance rank and mating success. This variability has led to debate about the nature of the relation between rank and mating success in male primates. We contribute to the resolution of this debate by presenting an analysis of the relationship between dominance rank and male mating success over 32 group-years in a population of wild savannah baboons. When data were pooled over the entire period, higher-ranking males had greater access to fertile females. However, when we examined successive 6-month blocks, we found variance in the extent to which rank predicted mating success. In some periods, the dominance hierarchy functioned as a queue in which males waited for mating opportunities, so that rank predicted mating success. In other periods, the queuing system broke down, and rank failed to predict mating success when many adult males were in the group, when males in the group differed greatly in age, and when the highest-ranking male maintained his rank for only short periods. The variance within this single population is similar to the variance observed between populations of baboons and between species of primates. Our long-term results provide strong support for the proposition that this variance is not an artefact of methodological differences between short-term studies, but is due to true variance in the extent to which high-ranking males are able to monopolize access to females.
Alberts S. C., Watts, H. E. & Altmann, J. 2003. Queuing and queue-jumping: long-term patterns of reproductive skew in male savannah baboons, Papio cynocephalus. Animal Behaviour 65, 4: 821-840.