How Cooperation Trumps Competition in Monkeys

How Cooperation Trumps Competition in Monkeys

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Being the top dog – or, in this case, the top gelada monkey – is even better if the alpha male is willing to concede at times to subordinates, according to a study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan and Duke University. Alpha male geladas who allowed subordinate competitors into their group had a longer tenure as leader, resulting in an average of three more offspring each during their lifetimes.

Cooperation is surprisingly common among wild animals, the researchers said. While it makes evolutionary sense for animals to help their kin, it is harder to explain cases where competitors – especially unrelated adult males – join forces. This conundrum is particularly hard to explain because mating is generally a zero-sum game in which males can only reproduce by stealing mating opportunities from each other.

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