Cooperation Trumps Competition Among Some Monkeys, Says Study

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July 5 2012 3:50 PM

Cooperation Trumps Competition Among Some Monkeys, Says Study

Sometimes cooperation trumps competition—even among wild monkeys. That's what scientists say certain species seem to know despite the competitive evolutionary mandate of "survival of the fittest."

In a five-year study of Gelada monkeys, researchers from three universities have noted that alpha males who allow some subordinate males into their group and even at times form alliances with them suffer fewer takeover attempts. Though Alphas who share their power and cooperate also have to split their genetic monopoly by allowing subordinates to mate with the group’s females, the sex-security tradeoff usually benefits the leader in the long run, according to researchers.

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Besides blunting Darwin’s “every critter for itself” argument, what does the study mean for the broader world? Scientists say more studies of different species are needed. We say if you want to know the power of cooperation, just go rent The Mighty Ducks, Ocean's 11, Hoosiers, and Apollo 13.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.

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