BITTEN and its Alpha-led werewolf packs.
What might the pack be like without alphas?
About 45 minutes into the 2008 National Geographic documentary STRESS: PORTRAIT OF A KILLER, Stanford neurobiologist Dr Robert Sapolsky, who spends a lot of time studying baboons in Kenya, tells a story that might have implications far beyond stress reduction. The story involves the unexpected results of a disaster that befell a troop of baboons he had been studying for many years.
“The keekorok troop was the one i started out with 30 years ago,” said Sapolsky. “And they were your basic baboon group at the time. which means males were aggressive and the society was highly stratified. Females took a lot of grief. [It was] your basic off-the-rack baboon troop. And then, almost 20 years ago, something horrific and scientifically very interesting happened to that troop. The keekorok troop took to foraging for food in the garbage dump of a popular tourist lodge. It was a fatal move. The trash included meat tainted with tuberculosis. The result was that nearly half the males in the troop died.”
Then Sapolsky made a curious observation about who had died and who had survived: “It wasn’t random who died. In that troop, if you were aggressive, and if you were not particularly socially connected, if you did not spend your time grooming and hanging out, if you were that kind of male, then you died. Every alpha male was gone. The keekorok troop had been transformed, and what you were left with was twice as many females as males, and the males that were remaining (just to use scientific jargon) were good guys. They were not aggressive jerks. They were nice to the females. They were variously affiliated. It completely transformed the atmosphere of the troop.
“When male baboons reach adolescence, they typically leave their home troop and roam, eventually finding a new troop. And when new adolescent males would join the troop, they’d come in just as jerky as many adolescent males elsewhere on this planet, and it would take them about six months to learn, ‘we’re not like that in this troop. We don’t do stuff like that. We’re not that aggressive.We spend more time grooming each other. Males are calmer with each other. You do not dump on a female if you’re in a bad mood.’And it takes these new guys about six months and they assimilate the style. And the baboons of this group have a culture with very low levels of aggression and high levels of social affiliation. They’re still doing that 20 years later.”
“The ability to build up knowledge over generations, called cumulative culture, has given humankind language and technology. While it was thought to be limited to humans until now, researchers have recently found that baboons are also capable of cumulative culture.”
— Science Daily – 5 November 2014
“The baboon is the most commonly used primate model for genetic studies of complex traits and susceptibility to complex diseases. This is, in large part, because of the many anatomic, physiologic, and genetic similarities between human and baboon, which facilitate translation of findings in baboons to humans.”
— The Baboon in Biomedical Research – J.L. VandeBerg, S. Williams-Blanqero, & S.D. Tardif (2008)