Friday, 8 May 2015

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders are not just for humans, says Robert John Young

Wednesday 06 May 2015
Lots of people find elections dull, but there's nothing boring about the political manoeuvres that take place in the animal kingdom. In the natural world, jockeying for advantage, whether this is conscious or merely mechanical, can be a matter of life or death.

Chimpanzees, our closest relatives, are highly political. They're smart enough to ealise that in the natural world, brute strength will only get you so far – getting to the top of a social group and remaining there requires political guile.

It's all about making friends and influencing others. Chimps make friends by grooming each other and forming alliances. This behaviour is especially prominent in males wishing to be group leader. In times of dispute, they call upon their friends for assistance, or when they sense a coup may be successful. And the ruling group either reaffirms its position or a new group grabs control – but having the weight of numbers is normally critical to success.

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