. Dominance hierarchies were first described for chickens by a Norwegian Zoologist who created the term “pecking order”. “
Since then, researchers like Elizabeth Hobson, University of Cincinnati biologist, have studied the intricate nature of conflict and competition among species such as primates and whales, birds, and insects.
Hobson is an assistant professor of biology at UC’s College of Arts and Sciences. She has contributed to the discussion in many published studies, especially in birds like monk parakeets. She co-edited this month’s special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society devoted to a century of research into dominance hierarchies.
Hobson has also published a new study using data mining in Google Scholar in order to analyze trends in dominance hierarchies. She found increasingly more publications on the topic in each decade, totalling 26,000 published papers in the past 100 years. Researchers are still fascinated by dominance hierarchies because of the number of published works and the diversity of communities studying the topic.
The subject continues to intrigue both researchers and the public, Hobson stated. This is because society is often preoccupied by conflict and competition.
“Think about the passion we have for sports and competition,” Hobson stated. “A lot of what we love to watch is based on finding out who the best. “
Norway’s Thorleif Schelderup-Ebbe was the first to describe dominance hierarchies during his dissertation in 1921. He was studying how domestic chickens create and maintain pecking orders, as well as their place within them. The chickens eat those of lower status, and in turn are pecked by birds with higher rank.
“He is like Charles Darwin of dominance hierarchies,” Hobson stated. “Many of the insights he had 100 many years ago still hold up today. “
It might seem easy to see our daily lives in the daily struggle for animals. Hobson stated that this would be a gross oversimplification, given the complex emotions and motivations of humans as well as our complex relationships.
” You need to be cautious when making one-to-1 comparisons,” Hobson stated. It’s more an analogy. What can we learn from animals about human interaction? “
Even so, people are still fascinated by the struggle.
The journal issue was edited by Eli Strauss (a postdoctoral researcher at Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior); James Curley (associate professor of psychology at Texas at Austin); and Daizaburo Shizuka (associate professor of biology at Nebraska at Lincoln).
“Dominance must be the most well-known topic in behavioral biology, possibly because power structures are so intuitively recognizable to us,” coeditor Strauss stated.
But, contrary to common wisdom, dominance often has to do more with circumstances and opportunities than good genes or superior size.
” The idea that dominant animals have the best mating opportunities and the greatest resources isn’t completely false, but it is also too simplistic,” he stated.
Strauss stated that in certain cases dominant animals are more at risk from injuries from repeated battles for their territory or position. As a result, some animals don’t m