Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Where Do You Stand? Research Shows Clues In Rules Of The Wild

Date:
January 10, 2008
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
If you wonder where you stand in the social pecking order at work, home and in the community, a little known group of primates found only in the highlands of Ethiopia may offer some clues. Psychology and anthropology researchers have spent more than a decade studying the social skills of non-human primates, focusing their attention on behavioral stress, aggression, social status and mate choice.

University of Michigan researchers Jacinta Beehner (above) and Thore Bergman have spent more than a decade studying the social skills of non-human primates. They are now focusing their attention on a close relative of baboons, the geladas.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Michigan

If you wonder where you stand in the social pecking order at work, home and in the community, a little known group of primates found only in the highlands of Ethiopia may offer some clues.

Related Articles


University of Michigan psychology and anthropology researchers Jacinta Beehner and Thore Bergman have spent more than a decade studying the social skills of non-human primates, focusing their attention on behavioral stress, aggression, social status and mate choice.

“Of course, your own social status is contingent on who else is there with you. Rank is always relative,” Beehner said. “We know primates know their own rank. The question is whether they are aware of the relative ranks of everyone else around them.

“In other words, do they know that rank number 2 is above rank number 3? We now know that some monkeys, like baboons, actually do know these things. But more recently, we are finding that as the group gets bigger and bigger, this might become more difficult to keep track of.”

For years, Beehner and Bergman studied baboons, which live in communities of about 80-100 animals. Now, aided by a $300,000 National Science Foundation grant, they have been studying a close relative of baboons, the geladas.

Unlike their baboon relatives, geladas live in massive herds that can number up to 1,200 individuals —perhaps one of the largest groups of non-human primates.

One of the more remarkable features of gelada society is that females hold great power. The gelada families are harem-based, with one male and up to12 closely related females comprising each family and dozens of these families comprising the entire herd. Even though males are almost twice the size of females, if the females are not happy with their male, they can “evict” him for another one.

“If he’s not grooming them enough or if he’s not attentive enough, they can kick him out,” Bergman said.

And there are scores of single males wandering around, constantly on the lookout for weak or unpopular leaders. Upon spotting one, a bachelor male will pounce, in hopes of gaining the harem for himself.

“During these fights, we’ve seen the females take sides – they literally line up behind the male they like better,” Beehner said.

So which male do the females choose? Beehner and Bergman believe this depends on several factors, one of which might be the redness of his chest. But another possibility is the sound of his voice.

With bachelor males breathing down his neck, a leader male will run around in a brief display. The final act of this dramatic display is to climb to the highest spot around and give a loud ritualized call, “eee-yow.”

Bergman has been recording these calls for more than two years and has found that the quality of the call seems to coincide with the quality of the male. Just as human voices can reveal strength or weakness, a bachelor might use this call to decide whether his opponent is all talk and no action.

“In these enormous groups, dominance rank is no longer the ‘currency’ by which males assess each other,” Beehner said. “We think that a male might be able to size up his rivals simply by looking at the color of his chest.”

Unique among primates, gelada males have a patch of bare skin on their chest that changes in color according to status. Beehner believes that this relationship (between color and status) might be linked by testosterone. As testosterone levels rise, male chests change from pale pink to bright red. Simply put, this chest patch could be a signal to other males, a way for males to decide whether they want to pick a fight with a high-testosterone rival or not.

“There’s a clear correlation between redness and testosterone because the really young and really old males have pale chests,” Beehner said. “Only males in the prime of their life, when all the females are paying attention to them, have bright red chests. And even within these prime males, we’ve noticed that the reddest males have the most females. The million-dollar-question is, do male red chests serve to ward off the males, to attract the females, or both?”

Bergman also studies other parts of gelada communication, which include about 30 distinctly different calls. Baboons only have about 15.

“Is their social life more complicated? Are they able to communicate in ways that baboons can’t? These are the questions I’d like to answer.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "Where Do You Stand? Research Shows Clues In Rules Of The Wild." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 January 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080107132133.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2008, January 10). Where Do You Stand? Research Shows Clues In Rules Of The Wild. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080107132133.htm
University of Michigan. "Where Do You Stand? Research Shows Clues In Rules Of The Wild." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080107132133.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins