Recently, we learned, ScienceDaily July 14, 2011), “High Social Rank Comes at a Price, Wild Baboon Study Finds”:
“An important insight from our study is that the top position in some animal — and possibly human — societies has unique costs and benefits associated with it, ones that may persist both when social orders experience some major perturbations as well as when they are stable,” said lead author Laurence Gesquiere, an associate research scholar in Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “Baboons are not only genetically closely related to humans, but like humans they live in highly complex societies.”
“We’ve known for decades that alpha males have an advantage in reproduction, but these results show that life at the top has a real downside, and that being an alpha male comes at a real cost,” said Alberts.
Which prompts the question: How do we know that alpha males have an advantage in reproduction? Did we just assume it, due to Darwinism, then select the data that support it? If recent epigenetics findings are right and the results here are also valid, the stress of being an alpha male could further limit the probability of Darwinian evolution.
What if the alpha male primarily benefits the group, by scaring away trouble, rather than himself?
We can safely ignore the authors’ proposed social and political advice:
Baboons are likely to be good models to provide insights for identifying the ideal position in a complex society under different conditions,” Altmann said of the study’s potential insights into research on human behavior.
See also: Antlers in heaven