Sex Differences in the Steepness of Dominance Hierarchies in Captive Bonobo Groups

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Jeroen M. G. Stevens, Hilde Vervaecke, Han Vries, Linda Elsacker
International Journal of Primatology
0164-0291 1573-8604

Bonobos have a reputation as a female-dominated and egalitarian species. We examined the 2 aspects of dominance in 6 captive bonobo groups. Females do not consistently evoke submission from all males in all contexts. Though females occupy the highest ranking positions in the dominance hierarchy, there are in each group males that obtain rather high ranks and are able to dominate ≥1 female. Thus female dominance is not complete and hierarchies can be better described as nonexclusive female dominance. We studied egalitarianism by measuring linearity and steepness of dominance hierarchies. The hierarchies of all groups are highly linear. Hierarchies among males are steeper than among females. On average, male bonobos are more despotic than females, but females too can have despotic relations, both with other females and with males. Hence one can call bonobos in captivity semidespotic rather than egalitarian.


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