Life at the top: Rank and stress in wild male baboons

Journal Article

In social hierarchies, dominant individuals experience reproductive and health benefits, but the costs of social dominance remain a topic of debate. Prevailing hypotheses predict that higher-ranking males experience higher testosterone and glucocorticoid (stress hormone) levels than lower-ranking males when hierarchies are unstable but not otherwise. In this long-term study of rank-related stress in a natural population of savannah baboons (Papio cynocephalus), high-ranking males had higher testosterone and lower glucocorticoid levels than other males, regardless of hierarchy stability. The singular exception was for the highest-ranking (alpha) males, who exhibited both high testosterone and high glucocorticoid levels. In particular, alpha males exhibited much higher stress hormone levels than second-ranking (beta) males, suggesting that being at the very top may be more costly than previously thought.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Gesquiere, LR; Learn, NH; Simao, MCM; Onyango, PO; Alberts, SC; Altmann, J

Published Date

  • 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 333 / 6040

Start / End Page

  • 357 - 360

PubMed ID

  • 21764751

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0036-8075

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1126/science.1207120