OU Anthropologist Studies Dominance Relationships

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An Ohio University anthropologist has reported the first observation of dominant relationships among adolescent male chimpanzees.

Anthropologist Hogan Sherrow says adult male chimpanzees have strict dominance relationships and you can always tell when one outranks another.

Sherrow spent eight years observing chimpanzee behavior in western Uganda.

He says he studied the relationships between adolescent male chimpanzees and how they learn to operate in the world.

Sherrow says the chimpanzees give a call to show their dominance.

"My research shows that they consistently elicit a specific call to one another and when chimpanzee's want to tell another chimpanzee that they're dominant to them and that they recognize their dominance, they make what's called a pant grunt. It's a very short call and basically they're telling them that I understand you're stronger than I am, I understand you're more powerful than I am and it diffuses the situation," says Sherrow.

He also says that weight, age and size can be factors in dominance.

Sherrow says having more friends allows for an alliance between the chimpanzees.

"Typically high ranking males are big and powerful but just as importantly and sometimes more importantly they have to have friends so alliances really determine what happens in their dominance relationships. When males can build good alliances and have a network alliance that they rely on they can raise in rank pretty quickly," says Sherrow.

Sherrow doesn't study female chimpanzees, but he says they are known to have inconsistent relationships.

Sherrow says chimpanzees and Bonobo's are humans closest living relatives and we can learn a lot about themselves through studying chimpanzees.

Sherrow says chimpanzees elicit similar dominance relationships to human relationships.

"What we see in humans is we see the same sort of posturing and the same competition for status and what's similar is that you have dominant chimpanzees asserting themselves in a situation towards subordinate chimpanzee's," says Sherrow.

Body posture is a main part in the comparison study.

Sherrow says when watching the presidential debates you can see similar behavior between the candidates when they use their posture to assert their dominance.