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Why are primate studies stalled on Stupid?

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bonobo female sustains bruise between eyes from ill-advised fight/Ian C. Gilbey

Further to: Bonobos can crack nuts with stones: Nothing science story of the year? we learn from Eurekalert:

But male and female chimpanzees achieve social status in dramatically different ways, says a new study by primatologists at Duke University. While males actively challenge their superiors to win higher rank, females accept their position in the social pecking order, waiting until more senior group members die before moving up the ladder.

The study, which appeared online Oct. 14 in the journal Scientific Reports, provides the first detailed look at how social status among wild chimpanzees changes throughout their lifetimes.

“We found that, after entering the adult hierarchy, there was a complete absence of successful challenges for rank increases among females,” said Steffen Foerster, senior research scientist at Duke University and lead author on the study. “It’s like a formal queue.”

Well, of course. Female animals, when not forced to defend themselves or their offspring, benefit little from combat so, no surprise, they avoid it and wait for a position to come free. Admitting individual exceptions.

It’s nice the team got through this story without one ridiculous claim that bonobos are entering the Stone Age. That said,

Compared to males, female chimpanzees “likely have to consider a long-term strategy,” Foerster said. “It is potentially dangerous to challenge each other — you may get injured, your offspring may be killed if you have a little baby. Finding that females actually do not fight for rank tells us how costly these challenges must be for them.” More.

Female chimpanzees do not have a “long-term strategy.” They simply avoid fights they sense—in the immediate term—they will lose. Why do we need to keep getting this stuff wrong?

See also: Are apes entering the Stone Age? (No)

Furry, feathery, and finny animals speak their minds


Matching Darwin’s Tree of Life, the tree of intelligence comes crashing down.

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Lo! these many years ago when the US Army was giving me classes in Leadership, I stumbled onto an article in which the non-military types recognized several kinds of Leadership in different types of male groups. And in spite of what the Army preached, among geeks and nerds pushy kick ass and takes names leaders are ignored in favor of technical talent and knowledge. But the surprising thing was female leadership: leaders of groups like Women's Clubs are the MOTHERS of the rest of the group. So, yes, the daughters all wait patiently for Mom to die or retire, and the new Leader is the woman most widely considered to be the most obvious Mother. Clearly for female humans who want to fight for Leader of MALE groups, the female has to beat all of the contending males on male terms. Although in some situations, a female might be forced upon the males, as when a king dies and his heir is the princess not the prince. But, yeah. I watch "Big Cat Diary" with my 2 year old grandson, and only fully mature and very powerful males get to Lead. So the male lions have a HUGE problem with pecking order. The female lions share mothering of all of the cubs in a common nursery. There is no point in the females being pushy. Every female that comes into heat gets mated. Every female or juvenile member of the pride that makes it to a kill gets to eat. mahuna

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