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The olive baboon (Papio anubis), also called the Anubis baboon, is a member of the family Cercopithecidae (Old World monkeys). The species is the most widely ranging of all baboons: It is found in 25 countries throughout Africa, extending from Mali eastward to Ethiopia and Tanzania. Isolated populations are also found in some mountainous regions of the Sahara. It inhabits savannahs, steppes, and forests.
The olive baboon is named for its coat, which, at a distance, is a shade of green-grey. Its alternate name comes from the Egyptian god Anubis, who was often represented by a dog head resembling the dog-like muzzle of the baboon. At closer range, its coat is multicolored, due to rings of yellow-brown and black on the hairs. The hair on the baboon's face, however, is coarser and ranges from dark grey to black. This coloration is shared by both sexes, although males have a mane of longer hair that tapers down to ordinary length along the back. Besides the mane, the male olive baboon differs from the female in terms of size and weight and canine tooth size; males are, on average, 70 cm (28 in) tall while standing and females measure 60 cm (24 in) in height. The olive baboon is one of the largest species of monkey; only the Chacma baboon and the mandrill attain similar sizes. The head-and-body length can range from 50 to 114 cm (20 to 45 in), with a species average of around 85 cm (33 in). At the shoulder on all fours, females average 55 cm (22 in) against males which average 70 cm (28 in). The typical weight range for both sexes is reportedly 10–37 kg (22–82 lb), with males averaging 24 kg (53 lb) and females averaging 14.7 kg (32 lb). Some males may weigh as much as 50 kg (110 lb).
Like other baboons, the olive baboon has an elongated, dog-like muzzle. In fact, along with the muzzle, the animal's tail (38–58 cm or 15–23 in) and four-legged gait can make baboons seem very canine. The tail almost looks as if it is broken, as it is erect for the first quarter, after which it drops down sharply. The bare patch of a baboon's rump, famously seen in cartoons and movies, is a good deal smaller in the olive baboon. The olive baboon, like most cercopithecines, has a cheek pouch with which to store food.
The olive baboon inhabits a strip of 25 equatorial African countries, very nearly ranging from the east to west coasts of the continent. The exact boundaries of this strip are not clearly defined, as the species' territory overlaps with that of other baboon species. In many places, this has resulted in cross-breeding between species. For example, considerable hybridization has occurred between the olive baboon and the hamadryas baboon in Ethiopia. Cross-breeding with the yellow baboon and the Guinea baboon has also been observed. Although this has been noted, the hybrids have not yet been studied well.
Throughout its wide range, the olive baboon can be found in a number of different habitats. It is usually classified as savanna-dwelling, living in the wide plains of the grasslands. The grasslands, especially those near open woodland, do make up a large part of its habitat, but the baboon also inhabits rainforests and deserts. Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for instance, both support olive baboon populations in dense tropical forests.
The olive baboon lives in groups of 15–150, made up of a few males, many females, and their young. Each baboon has a social ranking somewhere in the group, depending on its dominance. Female dominance is hereditary, with daughters having nearly the same rank as their mothers, with adult females forming the core of the social system. Female relatives form their own subgroups in the troop. Related females are largely friendly to each other. They tend to stay close together and groom one another, as well as team up in aggressive encounters with other troop members. Female kin form these strong bonds because they do not emigrate from their natal groups. Occasionally, groups may split up when they become so large that competition for resources is problematic, but even then, members of matrilines tend to stick together. Dominant females procure more food, matings, and supporters. Among olive baboons in Tanzania, high-ranking females have shorter interbirth intervals and higher infant survival, and their daughters tend to mature faster than low-ranking females. However, these high-ranking females also appear to have a higher probability of miscarriages and some high-ranking matrilines have inexplicably low fertility. One theory suggests this occurs due to stress on the high-ranking females, although it is controversial.
A female will often form a long-lasting social relationship with a male in her troop, known as a "friendship". These nonsexual affiliative friendships benefit both the male and female. Males benefit from these relationships because they are usually formed soon after he immigrates into a new group, and helps the male integrate into the group more easily. He could also potentially end up mating with his female friend in the future. Females gain protection from threats to themselves and their infants (if they have any). Also, a male will occasionally "baby-sit" for his female friend, so she can feed and forage freely without the burden of having to carry or watch the infant. These friendships are sometimes formed between sexually receptive females and newly immigrated males. These relationships are sometimes enduring and the pair will groom and remain close to each other. They will also travel, forage, sleep, and raise infants together, as well as fight together against aggressive conspecifics.
Males establish their dominance more forcefully than females. A male will disperse, or leave his natal group and join another group, after reaching sexual maturity. Adult males are very competitive with each other and will fight for access to females. Higher dominance means better access to mating and earlier access to food, so naturally a great deal of fighting over rank occurs, with younger males constantly trying to rise in position. Because females stay with their groups their entire lives, and males emigrate to others, often a new male will challenge an older one for dominance. Frequently, when older baboons drop in the social hierarchy, they will move to another tribe. The younger males who pushed them down will often bully and harass them. Older males tend to have more supportive and equal relationships than those of the younger males. The former may form coalitions against the latter.
Females are sexually mature at seven to eight years old, and males at seven to 10 years. The beginning of a female's ovulation is a signal to the males that she is ready to mate. During ovulation, the skin of the female's anogenital area swells and turns a bright red/pink. The swelling makes it difficult to move and increases the female's chance of microbial or parasite infection. Females with larger swellings reproduce at a younger age, produce a larger number of offspring per year, and a larger number of those offspring survive. Females with larger swellings attract more males and are more likely to cause aggressive fights between them. Olive baboons tend to mate promiscuously. A male will form a mating consortship with an estrous female, staying close to and copulating with her. A male will guard his partner against any other male trying to mate with her. Unless a female is in a multiday consortship, she will often copulate with more than one male each day. Multiple copulations are not necessary for reproduction, but may function to make the actual paternity of the female's offspring ambiguous. This lack of paternal certainty could help reduce the occurrence of infanticide. Occasionally, male olive baboons will monopolize a female for her entire period of probable conception. The male will prevent other males from mating with his female during consortship.
Newborns have black natal coats and bright pink skin. Females are the primary caregivers of infants, but males also play a role. For the first few days of life, the infant may be unable to stay attached to its mother and relies on her for physical support. However, its grasp grows stronger by its first week and it is able to cling to its mother's fur by itself. By two weeks, the infant begins to explore its surroundings for short periods, but stays near her. The distance the infant spends away from its mother increases the older it gets. In general, higher-ranking females are usually more relaxed parents than lower-ranking females, which usually keep their offspring close to them. However, this difference only lasts for approximately the first eight weeks of an infant's life. Olive baboons do not seem to practice co-operative parenting, but a female may groom an infant that is not hers. Subadult and juvenile females are more likely to care for another's young, as they have not yet produced offspring of their own. One theory for why immature females tend to seek out infants is that they can prepare for their future roles as mothers. Infant baboons born to first-time mothers suffer higher mortality than those born to experienced mothers, which suggests prior experience in caring for infants may be very important. Adult males in the groups will also care for the infants, as they are likely to be related to them. Males groom infants, reducing the amount of parasites they may have, and calm them when they are stressed. They may also protect them from predators, such as chimpanzees. However, adult males exploit infants and use them to reduce their chances of being threatened by other males.
Olive baboons communicate with various vocalizations and facial expressions. Throughout the day, baboons of all ages emit the "basic grunt". In addition, other calls given by adults include the "roargrunt", "cough-bark", and "cough geck". The latter two are made when unknown humans or low-flying birds are sighted, and the former is made by adult males displaying to each other. A "wa-hoo" call is made responding to predators or neighboring groups at night and during stressful situations. Other vocalizations include "broken grunting" (low-volume, quick series of grunts made during relatively calm aggressive encounters), "pant-grunts" (made when aggressive encounters escalate), "shrill barks" (loud calls given when potential threats appear suddenly), and "screams" (continuous high-pitch sounds responding to strong emotions). The most common facial expression of the olive baboon is "lipsmacking", which is associated with a number of behaviors. Lipsmacking, as well as "tongue protrusion", "jaw-clapping", "ear flattening", "eyes narrowed", and "head shaking", are used when baboons are greeting each other, and are sometimes made with a "rear present". "Staring", "eyebrow raising", "yawning", and "molar grinding" are used to threaten other baboons. A submissive baboon will respond with displays such as the "rigid crouch", "tail erect", and "fear grin".
One major reason for its widespread success is the olive baboon is not bound to a specific food source. It is omnivorous, finding nutrition in almost any environment, and able to adapt with different foraging tactics. For instance, the olive baboon in grassland goes about finding food differently from one in a forest. The baboon will forage on all levels of an environment, above and beneath the ground and in the canopy of forests. Most animals will only look for food at one level; an arboreal species for instance, such as a lemur, will not look for food on the ground. The olive baboon will search as wide an area as it can, and it will eat virtually everything it finds.
Virtually everything includes a large variety of plants, and invertebrates and small mammals, as well as birds. The olive baboon will eat leaves, grass, roots, bark, flowers, fruit, lichens, tubers, seeds, mushrooms, corms, and rhizomes. Corms and rhizomes are especially important in times of drought, because grass loses a great deal of its nutritional value. In dry, arid regions, such as the northeastern deserts, small invertebrates like insects, spiders, and scorpions fill out its diet.
The olive baboon will also hunt prey, from small rodents and hares to foxes and other primates. Its limit is usually small antelope, such as Thomson's gazelle and also, rarely, sheep, goats, and live chickens, which amount to 33.5% of its food from hunting. Hunting is usually a group activity, with both males and females participating. Interestingly, this systematic predation was apparently developed recently. In a field study, such behavior was observed as starting with the males of one troop and spreading through all ages and sexes.
In Eritrea, the olive baboon has formed a symbiotic relationship with that country's endangered elephant population. The baboons use the water holes dug by the elephants, while the elephants use the tree-top baboons as an early warning system.
The olive baboon is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN because "this species is very widespread and abundant and although persecuted as a crop raider there are no major threats believed to be resulting in a range-wide population decline". Despite persecution, the baboon is still widespread and numerous. However, competition and disease have likely led to fewer baboons in closed forests. It has been actively persecuted as a pest.
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