[monkeywire] She's a macaque. He's an alpha male. They're cops.

Francis Heaney f_heaney at yahoo.com
Mon Jan 30 09:50:01 EST 2006


New research reveals that monkey cops help keep social groups in line. 

Not having guns or nightsticks, they leverage their group seniority,
craft intimidating reputations and count on good voter turnout.

Take the primate police out of a group, as researchers did, and the
rest get more violent and aggressive. Interaction between cliques drops

"It's not just that violence goes up, but a whole range of behavior
involving a whole range of individuals suddenly disappears," said David
Krakauer of the Santa Fe Institute. "It's like saying you take police
out of human society, and all of a sudden people stop going to the
opera, or something more important."

The study, detailed in today's issue of the journal Nature, also
uncovered a complex monkey "voting" system for appointing the

**Peacekeepers 'appointed'**
Pigtailed macaque monkeys, Macaca nemestrina, don't just pull into town
like Wyatt Earp or Dirty Harry and take over. They have to be
"appointed" to the position.

Instead of a paper ballot, inferior monkeys bare their teeth to a more
dominant member of the group. 

"It's like they're saying, ‘You don't have to beat me up to establish
your dominance, I'm simply telling you that you are,'" Krakauer told

When an individual receives these voting signals from most of the
group, it shows he is well respected — or feared — and he becomes the
new sheriff in town.

In general, the larger and more senior monkeys are voted into the
policing role.

But having a gang to back you up counts for something, too. A single
Schwarzenegger-like monkey may not receive as many "votes" from the
group as a smaller individual with several brothers.

**On the job**
Once elected, police monkeys earn certain rights and responsibilities,
one of which is to peacefully settles conflicts. They usually do this
by stepping between combatants or chasing bad monkeys away. Very rarely
do they need to dish out a whooping, but their actions are always
respected by the group.

When Krakauer and his colleagues removed the police force — which in
this case consisted of three males, but can also include females — they
saw a drastic change in a once peaceful, interactive society.

The creatures split into cliques, mostly based on tight family
relationships or friendships, and then interacted about as well as high
school jocks and band geeks.

"The policers are indirectly providing the security needed for complex
forms of social interaction to take place," Krakauer said. "The monkeys
are afraid of approaching each other if the policers are not there to
resolve a potential conflict."

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