"Life at the Top: Rank and Stress in Wild Male Baboons," published in the July 15 issue of the journal Science found that in wild baboon populations, the highest-ranking, or alpha, males have higher stress-hormone levels than the highly ranked males below them, known as beta males -- even during periods of stability. The findings have implications in the study of social hierarchies and of the impact of social dominance on health and well-being, a subject of interest among researchers who study human and other animal populations.  "An important insight from our study is that the top position in some animal -- and possibly human -- societies has unique costs and benefits associated with it, ones that may persist both when social orders experience some major perturbations as well as when they are stable," said lead author Laurence Gesquiere, an associate research scholar in Princeton's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "Baboons are not only genetically closely related to humans, but like humans they live in highly complex societies."

baboons, stress, and overcoming hierarchy in primate societies

Dr Robert Sapolsky is a professor of Neurobiology and Primatology at Stanford University. He travels to Kenya every year to study the behavior of wild baboons.

Unless they die in an accident or are eaten by a predator, baboons die form stress. Not stress from their environment, but stress they inflict upon one another.

This is a story about his amazing study of a unique incident that happened with one of his baboon troops, taken from a National Geographic film called ‘Stress: The Portrait of a Killer.‘ I love the social implications of this.

this first clip is an introduction to dr. sapolsky and his work. sorry that it ends with a cliff-hanger, but if you’re enthralled, the second part is linked, on youtube…

but the amazing part is here:

…the implications are staggering, especially because of the willingness of our “leaders” in government, finance and the various resource extraction industries to kill us – their fellow human beings – by the millions in order to advance their business interests. they/we have already destroyed the niger river delta region, the amazon basin, and now the gulf of mexico, if not the entire north atlantic and caribbean as well. how can we change this? in the bible, jesus said that the meek shall inherit the earth. well, every inheritance is granted through death. what needs to die in order for humans to live self-directed, much-less-stressful lives? i think this study spells out the answer quite clearly.

One thought on “baboons, stress, and overcoming hierarchy in primate societies”

  1. Hey bruddah…Nocella published my Igniting a Revolution review in his Peace Studies Journal, did you get a chance to check that out yet? I linked to it on my blog, I’m curious to know what your honest opinion (I did quote you in it, hah!)

    –Love and Liberation–

    Jan @ TheRewildWest


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