If you're a male born to a father who's a strong and enduring community leader, you're far more likely than your less fortunate peers to become a leader yourself, due to the wide range of social advantages accruing from your dad's position.
And even if your old man isn't a leader, other men in your community are more likely to take you under their wing than your sisters, lavishing attention on you and showing you the ropes.
Sound like the basic description of an old boys' network?
Maybe so, but this is also the social structure that prevails among white-faced capuchin monkeys, those cute little New World primates associated in popular culture with organ grinders, says UCLA primatologist Susan Perry. Her new research provides a glimpse into how our male ancestors may have jockeyed for power and passed it on to their male offspring.
"Offspring, especially male offspring, raised in a group in which their father is the alpha male, throughout their juvenile phase enjoy a host of advantages over less fortunate monkeys," said Perry, a UCLA anthropology professor who has studied capuchins for 22 years. "A stable, peaceful family environment may have been important to the well-being and future success of children among our remote ancestors, just as it is to children today."
Perry reports her findings in a study published in the current issue of the peer-reviewed scholarly journal Advances in the Study of Behavior.
Widely known in popular media for their cleverness, dexterity and trainability, capuchins enjoy a distinction that makes them especially compelling to scholars of the evolution of behavior. The cat-sized primates have the largest brain-to-body ratio among non-human primates, making their behavior particularly relevant for understanding the evolutionary history of their big-brained relatives the humans.
"There are a lot of reasons to suspect that the same selective forces
|Contact: Meg Sullivan|
University of California - Los Angeles