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Ranking Primates Fair Better in Health June 1, 2012
Baboon Alpha Male
Alpha males seem better able to cope with stress and maintain better health than lower-ranking males.
A new study finds that at least some high-ranking primates appear to recover from illness and injuries more quickly that less influential members of their group.

Biologists from Notre Dame, Duke and Princeton made the discovery by examining 27 years of health records from the Amboseli Baboon Research Project in Kenya.

They found that low-ranking males typically required about 31 days to recover, whereas high-ranking males required only about 25 days.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team said this was surprising due to the stress brought on by being a leader.

Earlier studies had shown high-ranking males endure more short-term stress since their role as leader involves competing for domination as well as mating frequently.

The researchers say that chronic stress over which one has no control, old age and poor physical condition tied with low rank may suppress immune and healing functions for males in the lower rungs of society.

Photo: Elizabeth Miller - University of Notre Dame