Small male chimps use politics, not aggression, to lead the pack

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Washington, Feb 3 (ANI): Politics, not aggression, is what small male chimpanzees use to secure the top position in their group, a new study has revealed.

In majority of mammals, the biggest and most aggressive male claims the alpha male role and gets his choice of food and females.

But the new study from the University of Minnesota suggests that at least among chimpanzees, smaller, more mild-mannered males can also use political behaviour to secure the top position.

The researchers came to the conclusion after 10 years of observing dominant male chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, looking at behaviours 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.

For the study the researchers focused on three alpha males who reigned between 1989 and 2003.

Although it's 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.

"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.

The findings are reported in the February issue of the American Journal of Primatology. (ANI)

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