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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

8 - Male political strategies


Male chimpanzees compete for social status. Winning the top rank in the dominance hierarchy appears to be the main lifetime goal of most, if not all, male chimpanzees. They breathe, eat, and live to dominate others. Why are they so driven to become the dominant ape? Because higher rank confers higher reproductive advantage through more frequent mating opportunities. Alpha rank, in particular, confers a disproportionately higher chance of mating. To gain promotion in dominance rank, a male must perform various activities at different stages of his life: pant-grunt to adult males before maturity; play-fight and wrestle during juvenility; harass adult females throughout juvenility and adolescence; establish dominance status among adolescent male peers; and perform intimidation displays, including ‘display contests’, from late adolescence into adulthood. The last requirement is a lifetime activity for all adult males.

Set up, charge, and climax

Adult male chimpanzees have a repertoire of ‘displays’ that are noteworthy behavioural patterns, to say the least! The charging display, so named by Jane Goodall (1968), involves many behavioural elements, some of which involve the use of tools. Charging displays have three stages: set up, lunge and dash, and climax.