This is caused by self-organisation. This surprising discovery was made by researchers at the University of Groningen. What makes the study particularly interesting is that the researchers used a computer model which can simulate interaction between monkeys. Their findings are published in the journal Plos One.
Many animals living in groups have a social hierarchy, a so-called ‘pecking order’. Monkeys, too, have a social hierarchy. Highest in the pecking order is the most dominant monkey, who consistently wins aggressive interactions (such as biting) with other group members. At the bottom of the hierarchy is the lowest ranking monkey, who consistently loses interactions with other members of the group. Monkeys have to fight for their place in this hierarchy every day.
The position of females in the hierarchy varies among different monkey species. In most species females are ranking below the males. This is no wonder, because they are usually much smaller than males. However, in the case of the Lemur species of Madagascar the females are dominant, in bonobos, males and females roughly equal each other in dominance, and among a lot of other species (macaques and the grivet, for instance) females are weakly dominant (this means that the most dominant females rank above approximately a third of the males).
‘Until now, it was unknown how this female dominance develops’, says Charlotte Hemelrijk, theoretical biologist at the University of Groningen and the first author of the article which she wrote together with Dr. Jan Wantia and a Swiss anthropologist, Dr. Karin Isler. Researchers in Groningen therefore created a virtual world, Domworld, with which they could simulate the interactions between monkeys.
Large amount of literature
Surprisingly, the computer model predicted females to be more dominant in a group with a relatively large number of males. To verify this prediction, the researchers analyzed data of aggression of a large amount of literature in which primate behaviour is described in order to calculate for the first time female-dominance among many different groups and monkey species. Their analysis showed the predictions of the computer model to be accurate. ‘This is an interesting way of conducting research’, says Hemelrijk. ‘You discover something unexpected in the virtual world and then you test your findings in the real world.’
Inborn or self-organisation?
So why are females more dominant in groups with a higher percentage of males? Two competing theories about the development of dominance exist, explains Hemelrijk. ‘According to the first theory, dominance is inborn. A monkey with good genes is bigger and will therefore win aggressive interactions more easily. The second theory states that dominance develops through self-organisation. An individual monkey wins an aggressive interaction by chance. As a consequence, the monkey’s self-confidence grows and it also wins other aggressive interactions. It’s a self-reinforcing effect,’ says Hemelrijk.
More complex than thought
If the first theory were correct, one would expect dominant females to be relatively bigger in size compared to male members of their species than less dominant females of other species. The researchers found this not to be the case. Instead, the second theory turns out to perfectly explain female dominance, as the relation between female dominance and the percentage of males can only be found among monkey species living in groups with aggressive behaviour that is sufficiently intense and frequent.
‘Male aggression is more intense than that of females. In groups with more males, males are more often defeated by other males. Consequently, high-ranking females may be victorious over these losers. Furthermore, the presence of more males in the group leads to more interactions between males and females, causing more chance winnings by females. Through a self-reinforcing effect, these females will go on to win more frequently in later interactions and grow more dominant’, says Hemelrijk.
According to the researcher, the study casts new light on monkeys. ‘The assumption was always that the degree of female dominance over males -or male dominance over females- was static, but it turns out to be much more dynamic and complex than expected.’ Dominance also plays a factor of importance in human interaction, says Hemelrijk. ‘It would not surprise me if self-organisation would prove to play a role in the development of dominance between the sexes among human beings too.’
New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...
The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.
The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".
Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News