Wild Animals/hierarchy


ok so all apes have some form of hierarchy. so I was wondering if homo sapiens have a social structure and hierarchy characteristic to our species.

Dear Adam

Thank you for your interesting question. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

Please note that my answer includes personal opinions and veers away from the type of answer I usually give to AllExperts questions.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominance_hierarchy says dominance hierarchy arises when members of a social group interact, often aggressively, to create a ranking system. Members tend to compete to access limited resources and mating opportunities. They form relative relationships between members of the same sex to avoid fighting each time they meet. The repetitive interactions help create a social order that is subject to change each time a subordinate animal challenges a dominant one.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominance_hierarchy says gorillas live in a despotic system, where there is a dominant male and all other group members are equally submissive.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominance_hierarchy#Female_dominance_in_mammals says female-biased dominance occurs rarely in the bonobo.[48] All adult males exhibit submissive behaviour to adult females in social settings, usually related to feeding, grooming and sleeping site priority. As males are subordinate to females, they conserve energy for intense male-male competition experienced during very short breeding seasons. Dominance helps females deal with high reproductive demands; they prevail in more social conflicts as they have more at stake in terms of fitness.

http://anthro.palomar.edu/behavior/behave_2.htm says that chimpanzees often change their social groups. Adult males often engage in complex political activities involving scheming and physical intimidation to move up the dominance hierarchy. The largest and strongest male does  not always reach it to the top of the hierarchy. Teamwork can be used to frighten and impress others.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_dominance_theory says human social groups are often organized according to group-based social hierarchies.
1 Adults usually have more power and higher status than children
2 Men often have more power and higher status than women
3 In some societies, group-based hierarchies can be based on ethnicity (such as apartheid), religion and nationality.
4 Many societies consider that the attributes of leaders are inherited by or shared by their relatives. This is the basis of royal families.
5 People who are rich and attractive are more likely to attract partners. I accept this is a subjective statement, but I think it is basically true.
6 People in higher-ranked classes or castes usually have more power and higher status. It can be difficult for someone from an 'inferior' class to be accepted in a 'higher' class.
7 Stronger people often have an unfair advantage. Beating someone up does not prove that a point of view is correct.
8 People with certain talents, such as sports, acting and singing, are often held in higher esteem and gain access to more resources.

Please note that some societies operate on different principles. In some societies a person may have several spouses or have several generations living together. When I was in Madagascar, an anthropologist took me to an island which is only visited by white people about twice a year. Lots of people listened to an elderly lady. Malagasy people have a long history of ancestor worship and may spend a lot of money to placate neglected dead relatives. Despite this, there are tribal leaders and hierarchies (http://www.wildmadagascar.org/overview/loc/29-family.html).

This is a very big and controversial subject, but I hope I have answered your question.

All the best


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Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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