Hierarchy and submission in the social system of animals

Most animals are characterized by their social behavior. Interact with other individuals of the same species under guidelines of hierarchy and submission that determine their framework of action within the group.

Depending on the species and the type of link shared between the different members, can be established the following groupings:

  • Aggregations : set of animals of the same or different species that coincide in a same habitat without any social connection .
  • Anonymous groups : grouping of individuals linked by their intraspecific relationship but not they recognize individually. These can be opened or closed depending on whether or not they allow new members to join the unit.
  • Hierarchical groups : group of animals of the same species in which establishes a structure organized according to the physical or behavioral characteristics of its members . This provision is known by each of the members who will act accordingly. In these relations of hierarchy and submission two key factors stand out: dominance and leadership.

Dominance vs leadership in social groups

Dominance is the attribute that gives an animal access to food, sexual or territorial resources preferably against other individuals. The dominance condition is closely related to the species, age, size, sex and aggressiveness.

Leadership gives an individual the ability to act as group leader by having the recognition of its members. Normally, it is linked to physical qualities or attitudinal features, and is aimed at the common benefit of all members.

Some examples of hierarchy and submission in the animal kingdom

  • Social structure in elephants : unlike other species, elephants are characterized by grouping according to their sex. While females stand out for their great socialization by interacting even with females of other flocks, males - who at first form 'singles groups' - tend to adopt a more independent attitude. In these masculine nuclei there are usually fights for domination, which is why they end up isolating themselves, until the reproductive season.
 Social structure in elephants
  • Social structure in wolves: despite the existence of individuals detached from the group Known as lone wolves, these animals are characterized by their stipulated herd organization. These groupings integrate an average of 8-15 individuals led by an alpha pair , usually a male and a female that act as guides of the group. In the case of the male, this distinction is attributed after showing superior skills in the field of struggle.
 Iberian wolf: customs

Sometimes different flocks may coincide in the same territory. However, as long as there is no competition for the dams, the herds usually act independently.

  • Social structure in chimpanzees : characterized by its dynamism, over all in the case of the males who spend a large part of their lives promoting or maintaining a certain status within the group.In fact, altruism and the creation of friendly bonds are some of the traits that define the social character of chimpanzees.

    Despite this, this species can adopt aggressive behavior when members of different communities compete with each other for the same territory or female. And they can even kill themselves.

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