Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Small Male Chimps Use Politics, Rather Than Aggression, To Lead The Pack

Date:
February 3, 2009
Source:
University of Minnesota
Summary:
With most mammals, the biggest and most aggressive male claims the alpha male role and gets his choice of food and females. But a new study suggests that at least among chimpanzees, smaller, more mild-mannered males can also use political behavior to secure the top position.

New research suggests that at least among chimpanzees, smaller, more mild-mannered males can also use political behavior to secure the top position.
Credit: iStockphoto/Gary Wales

With most mammals, the biggest and most aggressive male claims the alpha male role and gets his choice of food and females. But a new study from the University of Minnesota suggests that at least among chimpanzees, smaller, more mild-mannered males can also use political behavior to secure the top position.

The finding was gleaned from 10 years of observing dominant male chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, looking at behaviors they used to compete for alpha male status relative to their size. Analysis showed that larger males relied more on physical attacks to dominate while smaller, gentler males groomed other chimpanzees, both male and female, to gain broad support.

The study focused on three alpha males who reigned between 1989 and 2003. Frodo, one of the largest and most aggressive male chimpanzees ever observed at Gombe, weighed 51.2 kg (112.6 lbs.) at his peak. He relied on his size and aggression to rule. While he allowed other chimpanzees to groom him, he seldom returned the favor. At the other end of the spectrum, Wilkie, who weighed only 37 kg (81.4 lbs.), obsessively groomed both male and female chimpanzees to maintain his top position. And Freud, who weighed 44.8 kg (98.6 lbs.), used a combination of the two strategies. (The average male chimp in Gombe weighs about 39 kg (85.8 lbs.).

The findings are reported in the February issue of the American Journal of Primatology. While it's widely known that grooming plays an important role in chimpanzee social interaction, this study is the first to show that it can be a strategy for achieving dominance.

Mark Foster, who was an undergraduate pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology and a B.F.A. in acting when the research was conducted, was the study's lead author of the study. As a recipient of a Katherine E. Sullivan Fellowship he later spent six months in Tanzania and Gombe and then became an educational assistant at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

"Mark showed extraordinary creativity and tenacity in pulling together this study while still an undergraduate and then seeing it through to publication," said Anne Pusey, who was senior author. Pusey is director of the Jane Goodall Institute's Center for Primate Studies at the University of Minnesota and a University McKnight Distinguished Professor in the College of Biological Sciences' department of ecology, evolution and behavior (EEB).

Other collaborators included EEB graduate students Ian Gilby, who guided Foster in the initial outline of the question and in data extraction; Carson Murray, who guided data analysis; and Emily Wroblewski, who analyzed data on male dominance hierarchies. Statistics graduate student Alicia Johnson of the U of M Statistics Clinic guided the statistical analysis. Gilby is now a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard, and Murray a post-doctoral fellow at Lincoln Park Zoo.

"We were aware that Frodo was a bully and a stingy groomer, but we did not know how closely grooming patterns would correlate with body size," Pusey said. "We plan to study more alpha males to determine if grooming is a common strategy that small-bodied males use to placate rivals or cultivate cooperative alliances."

The Jane Goodall Institute's Center for Primate Studies was established in 1995 at the College of Biological Sciences by Pusey, a former student of Goodall's. Pusey brought all of Goodall's field notes and photographs from 48 years in Gombe to the University of Minnesota. She is overseeing the creation of a searchable, online database providing access to Goodall's research material.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. M.W. Foster, I.C. Gilby, C.M. Murray, A. Johnson, E.E. Wroblewski, A.E. Pusey. Alpha male chimpanzee grooming patterns: implications for dominance 'style'. American Journal of Primatology, 2009; 71 (2): 136 DOI: 10.1002/ajp.20632

Cite This Page:

University of Minnesota. "Small Male Chimps Use Politics, Rather Than Aggression, To Lead The Pack." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090202174958.htm>.
University of Minnesota. (2009, February 3). Small Male Chimps Use Politics, Rather Than Aggression, To Lead The Pack. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090202174958.htm
University of Minnesota. "Small Male Chimps Use Politics, Rather Than Aggression, To Lead The Pack." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090202174958.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
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