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Low-status chimps revealed as trendsetters

In experiments, apes were more likely to copy subordinates than alpha males

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11:00am, February 21, 2017
Angie

APE ME  Low-ranking chimpanzees in a captive colony, represented here by a female named Angie, were more successful at spreading a trained, rewarding behavior to other group members than alpha males were, a new study shows. The finding points to the complexity of chimps’ social lives.

Chimps with little social status influence their comrades’ behavior to a surprising extent, a new study suggests.

In groups of captive chimps, a method for snagging food from a box spread among many individuals who saw a low-ranking female peer demonstrate the technique, say primatologist Stuart Watson of the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland, and colleagues. But in other groups where an alpha male introduced the same box-opening technique, relatively few chimps copied the behavior, the researchers report online February 7 in the American Journal of Primatology.

“I suspect that even wild chimpanzees are motivated to copy obviously rewarding behaviors of low-ranking individuals, but the limited spread of rewarding behaviors demonstrated by alpha males was quite surprising,” Watson says. Previous research has found that chimps in captivity more often copy

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