In rhesus society, dominants always travel in business class and subordinates in economy, and if the flight is overbooked, its the subordinates who get bumped off the plane, Maestripieri said. Social status can make the difference between life and death in human societies too, he pointed out. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, for instance, the poorer members of the community accounted for most of the hurricanes death toll.
Male macaques form alliances with more powerful individuals, and take part in scapegoating on the lower end of the hierarchy, a Machiavellian strategy that a mid-ranking monkey can use when under attack from a higher-ranking one. Altruism is rare and, in most cases, only a form of nepotistic behavior. Mothers help their daughters achieve a status similar to their own and to maintain it throughout their lives. Females act in Machiavellian ways also when it comes to reproduction. They make sure they have lots of sex with the alpha male to increase the chances he will protect their newborn infant from other monkeys 6 months later.
But while they have lots of sex with the alpha male and make him think hes going to be the father of their baby, the females also have sex with all the other males in the group behind the alpha males back, Maestripieri said. They do so just in case the alpha male is sterile or he dies or loses his power before the baby is born.
Struggles for power within a group sometimes culminate in a revolution, in which all members of the most dominant family are suddenly attacked by entire families of subordinates. These revolutions result in drastic changes in the structure of power within rhesus societies, not unlike those occurring following human revolutions. There is one situation, however, in which all o
|Contact: William Harms|
University of Chicago