I have had a lot of students of whom I’m very proud because of their accomplishments both in research and generally. One of these students is Mark Foster, who is one of a very small number of undergraduates to engage in significant research at some of the key East African chimpanzee research sites. Unfortunately for me, I can’t take a lot of credit for Mark’s excellent research, because I played a much smaller role in working with him than did others, but I am still very happy with his successes.
I’ve got a peer reviewed paper by Mark that I’ll be reviewing soon. In the mean time, have a look at this piece from Nature News
Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Jane Goodall Institute Center for Primate Studies have now collated ten years of behavioural data on three male chimpanzee in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Chimpanzees within the park have been routinely weighed by park staff, allowing Mark Foster and his team from the institute to work out which tactics chimpanzees of dramatically different sizes used both before and after they became alpha males….
The findings … are the first to suggest that physically smaller males make up for their reduced physical characteristics by using grooming to make allies who will aid them when their time comes to try and achieve alpha-male status, says Foster….
“It’s kind of like when I was a teenager and the football team’s quarterback lost the school’s popularity poll to a wimpy, unassuming fellow who was also quick-witted. The latter fellow was able to make friends through his sense of humour and charisma, and in turn achieved a kind of alpha status over the brutish quarterback,” he says.