Anthropology Friday: In the Shadow of Man, (4/5)

jane-van-lawick-goodall-in-the-shadow-of-man-book-coverHello! Today we are continuing with our discussion of Jane Goodall’s In the Shadow of Man, featuring the adventures of a family (or several families) of chimpanzees from The Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. Today’s focus is on social structure.

Social status:

“I began to suspect that Goliath might be the highest-ranking male chimpanzee in the area–and later I found that this was in reality the case. If William and Goliath started to move toward the same banana at the same time, it was William who gave way and Goliath who took the fruit. If Goliath met another adult male along a narrow forest track, he continued–the other stepped aside. Goliath was nearly always the first to be greeted when a newcomer climbed into a fig tree to join a feeding group of chimpanzees. One day I actually saw him driving another chimp from her nest to take it for himself. …

William, with his long scarred upper lip and drooping lower lip, was one of the more subordinate males in his relationships with other chimpanzees. If another adult male made signs of aggression toward him, William was quick to approach with gestures of appeasement and submission, reaching out to lay his hands on the other, crouching with soft panting grunts in front of the higher-ranking individuals. … When I offered him a banana in my hand for the first time, he stared at it for several moments, gently shook a branch in his frustration, and then sat uttering soft whimpering sounds until I relented and put the fruit on the ground. …

Flo the chimpanzee, image from Jane Goodall's website
Flo the chimpanzee, image from Jane Goodall’s website

“Even in those days, Flo looked very old. … We soon found out that her character by no means matched her appearance: she was aggressive, tough as nails, and easily the most dominant of all the females at that time.

“Flo’s personality will become more vivid if I contrast it with that of another old female, Olly … was remarkably different. Flo for the most part was relaxed in her relations with the adult males; often I saw her grooming in a close group with with two or three males out in the forest, and in camp she showed no hesitation in joining David or Goliath to beg for a share of cardboard or bananas. Olly, on the other hand, was tense and nervous in her relations with others of her kind. She was particularly apprehensive when in close proximity to adult males, and her hoarse, frenzied pant-grunts rose to near hysteria if high-ranking Goliath approached her. …

“Olly tended to avoid large groups of chimps and often wandered around with only her two year old daughter Gilka for company.

EvX: Gilka eventually became so lonely and isolated that she made friends with a baboon:

“One day when Gilka was again waiting while Olly fished for termites, I heard a baboon bark further down the valley. At the sound Gilka’s whole attitude underwent and immediate change. [from her previously depresesed state.] …

“A moment later I saw Gilka move out from the trees, and at almost the same time a small baboon detached itself from the troop and cantered toward her. … the two ran up to each other, and for a moment I saw their faces very close together. Each had one arm around the other. The next moment they were playing, wrestling, and patting each other. Goblina went around behind Gilka and, reaching forward, seemed to tickle the chimpanzee in the ribs. Gilka, leaning back, pushed at Goblina’s hands, her mouth open in a wide smile. …

“I watched Gilka and Goblina playing for ten minutes, and all the time they were amazingly gentle. Then the baboon troop started to move on and Goblina scampered after it.”

EvX: Olly may have been avoiding other chimps because she was lower status, and being around people of higher status than oneself is often unpleasant.

“Often, too, Olly and Flo traveled about together in the forests, and all four children were playmates of long standing. For the most part, the relationship between Olly and Flo was peaceful enough, but if there was a single banana lying on the ground between them the relative social status of each was made clear: Flo had only to put a few of her moth-eaten hairs on end for Olly to retreat, pant-grunting and grinning in submission. …

Fifi the chimpanzee, image from Jane Goodall's website
Fifi the chimpanzee, image from Jane Goodall’s website

“The adult females of the chimpanzee community are almost always submissive to the adult males, and and to many of the older adolescent males. But they have their own dominance hierarchy, of which Flo was for many years supreme. … Flo was exceptionally aggressive toward her own sex, and she would tolerate no insubordination from young adolescent males. Much of her confidence no doubt resulted from the fact that he was so often accompanied by her two eldest sons,and with the aggressive Fifi as well, the family was formidable indeed.”

EvX: Flo and Olly once they teamed up and literally beat the shit out of a strange female who had ventured into their territory. Perhaps not coincidentally, Flo was the most sexually popular female in the group.

As Jane observed the chimps over the decades, most of them received names that started with the same letter as their mothers. (It is usually difficult to know which chimp was an infant’s father.) So Flo is the matriarch of the “F-family.” According to Wikipedia:

The F-family has produced at least four alpha males for the community, and the matriarch, Flo, played a particularly important role in acknowledging Dr Goodall’s acceptance as a human observer by the community. The G-family has produced at least one alpha male, and also the birth of several twins, which are rare among chimpanzees. There are other families as well which include the T-family and S-family (which has produced one alpha male).

In other words, Flo’s children and grandchildren did very well for themselves. If you were a male chimp in the Gombe, you would want to mate with Flo.

Frodo the chimpanzee, image also from Jane's website
Frodo the chimpanzee, image also from Jane’s website

The Wikipedia also tells us about the lives of some of the chimps born after the book ends, such as Frodo, Flo’s grandson:

Frodo (June 30, 1976 – November 10, 2013) was Fifi’s second oldest son.[39] His father was the relatively low-ranking male Sherry. Even from a young age, Frodo was large and aggressive. He learned to throw rocks as a juvenile, sometimes throwing them at and hitting and bruising his human observers.[40] As an adult, he was one of the largest chimpanzees ever observed in the community, at about 113 pounds (51 kg) and remained aggressive.[37][39] He also became an excellent hunter of red colobus monkeys, and was also able to intimidate other chimpanzees into sharing their kills with him if he was unsuccessful.[22][41] His large size and aggressive nature allowed him to attain high status…

As alpha male, Frodo maintained his position largely through intimidation.[22][37][41] He rarely groomed other males, and often demanded that other males groom him.[22][37][41] Frodo maintained his alpha position until becoming ill himself in 2002.[22][33][41][42] He was then defeated by a coalition of several males and spent most of the next two years on his own recovering from his wounds and illness.[22][33][41][42]

Frodo’s aggression was not limited to Colobus monkeys and other chimpanzees. In May 2002, he killed a 14-month-old human baby that the niece of a member of the research team had carried into his territory.[43] … In 1988, he attacked cartoonist Gary Larson, leaving him bruised and scratched.[43] In 1989, he attacked Goodall, beating her head to the point of nearly breaking her neck.[43]

Frodo fathered at least eight infants, second most of any group male (Wilkie fathered ten).

Perhaps if Frodo’s father had been high-status, he could have solidified his position via grooming and social coalition rather than violence, and thus perhaps avoided being violently deposed.

The entry on Wilkie notes his very different approach to dominance:

In 1989 Wilkie defeated Goblin and attained the alpha position.[53] Wilkie, attained this position despite being one of the smallest males in the community, at 37 kilograms (82 lb).[85] According to researchers at the University of Minnesota‘s Jane Goodall Institute Center for Primate Studies, Wilkie attained his position primarily by becoming popular by obsessively grooming other males.[79][85] Unlike most males, Wilkie also groomed females.[85] Wilkie also made effective use of charging displays.[79]

Mike’s rise:

“Mike‘s rise to the number-one spot in the chimpanzee hierarchy was both interesting and spectacular. In 1963, Mike had ranked almost bottom in the adult male dominance hierarchy. He… had been threatened and actually attacked by almost every other adult male. …

“A group of five adult males, including to-ranking Goliath, David Graybeard, and the huge Rodolf, were grooming each other. The session had been going on for some twenty minutes. Mike was sitting about thirty yards apart from them, frequently staring toward the group, occasionally idly grooming himself.

“All at once, Mike calmly walked over to our tent and picked up an empty kerosene can by the handle. Then he picked up a second can and, walking upright, returned to the place where he had been sitting. … After a few minutes he began to rock from side to side. … his hair slowly began to stand erect, and then, softly at first, he began a series of pant-hoots. … suddenly he was off, charging toward the group of males, hitting the two cans ahead of him. The cans, along with Mike’s crescendo of hooting, made the most appaling racket: no wonder the erstwhile peaceful males rushed out of the way. …

“Mike set off again, but he made straight for Goliath–and even he hastened out of the way like the others. Then mike stopped and sat, all his hair on end, breathing hard. …

“Rodolf was the first of the males to approach Mike, uttering soft pant-grunts of submission, crouching low and pressing his lips to Mike’s thigh. Next he began to groom Mike. … Finally David Greybeard went over to Mike, laid one hand on his groin, and joined in the grooming. Only Goliath kept away, sitting alone and staring toward Mike.”

EvX: So Mike becomes dominant.

“… it was fully another year before Mike seemed to feel quite secure in his position. He continued to display very frequently and vigorously, and lower-ranking chimps had increasing reason to fear him, since often he would attack a female or youngster viciously at the slightest provocation.”

The observance of human customs:

“Christmas that year at the Gombe Stream was a day to remember. I bought an extra large supply of bananas and put them around a small tree I had decorated with silver paper and absorbent cotton. Goliath and William arrived together on Christmas morning and gave loud screams of excitement when they saw the huge pile of fruit. They flung their arms around one another and Goliath kept patting William on his wide open screaming mouth while William laid one arm over Goliath’s back. Finally they calmed down and began their feast, still uttering small squeaks and grunts of pleasure.”

Friendship:

“Firm friendships, like that between Goliath and David Graybeard, seem to be particularly prevalent among male chimpanzees. Mike and the irascible, testy old J.B. traveled about in the same group very frequently. … The only two adult females we know of who enjoyed this kind of friendship were almost certainly sisters.”

EvX: J.B. uses his relationship with newly ascended Mike to raise his own social status and get more bananas.

Illness and Death:

“Shortly after Christmas, I had to leave the Gombe stream myself for another term at Cambridge. My last two weeks were sad, for William fell ill. … When he climbed down in the morning I saw that every few moments his body shook with violent spasms of shivering. … One morning, two days before I had to leave, William stole a blanket from Dominic’s tent. [Dominic was the camp cook.] He had been sitting chewing on it for a while when David Greybeard arrived and, after eating some bananas, joined William at the blanket. For half an hour or so the two sat peacefully side by side, each sucking noisily and contentedly on different corners. Then William, like the clown he so often appeared to be, put part of the blanket right over his head and made groping movements with his hands as he tried to touch David from within the strange darkness he had created. … Presently the two wandered off into the forest together, leaving me with the echo of a dry, hacking cough and the blanket lying on the ground. I never saw William again. …

To be continued…

 

 

Advertisements

One thought on “Anthropology Friday: In the Shadow of Man, (4/5)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s