(In particular primates)

I know chimps do. Powerful alpha males chimp would beat up omega males that they caught mating.

I know gorillas do. Powerful alpha males gorillas would beat up omega males that they caught mating.

I know humans do. Politically powerful alpha males would jail or stone weaker omega "peasant" humans that they caught mating.

I know bonobo doesn't.

What about other primates/animals?

So what's the difference and why?


The alpha animals are given preference to be the first to eat and the first to mate; among some species they are the only animals in the pack allowed to mate. Other animals in the community are usually killed or ousted if they violate this rule.


How do preventing and punishing others from mate improve ones' own gene pool survival? Are there similarity between primates (including humans) in this regard?

  • $\begingroup$ You want list of animals that do this? if yes, then this is off topic. $\endgroup$
    – Ashu
    May 21, 2012 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Ashu "So what's the difference and why?" $\endgroup$
    – Rory M
    May 21, 2012 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ @RoryM as far as i know "list" questions are considered off topic on SE $\endgroup$
    – Ashu
    May 21, 2012 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean those that are caught mating with a desirable female are beaten up, or just in general? As always, references would be great for these assertions. $\endgroup$
    – jonsca
    May 21, 2012 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ I'd take issue with "just like humans." $\endgroup$
    – kmm
    May 21, 2012 at 16:53

1 Answer 1


As the comments suggest, I think a little basic reading so you understand the definitions involved here might be appropriate. The questions are a bit anthocentric, and I think that's why folks with a bit more biological culture might be concerned about the answers.

Alpha type structures can be found in all sorts of animals. Sperm competition, where many males simply mate with the female and let the sperm work it out are also v common from snakes to mice to primates.

Its hard to say without you asking a more specific question, but the essential question is whether the competition occurs between the animals themselves or between the intermixed sperm of the males inside the female. If that sounds gross, that's a typical reaction if you are not a monkey, snake, duck or mouse to name a few. Different species choose different social roles in mating and for reasons that may be difficult to divine.

For animals in an alpha troop modality, the alpha male will eventually get older or weaker and the younger ones will have their chance to mate. There is always tomorrow. That's my very brief answer.

It might be worthwhile to take some time to read some about this - a page of response to your questions is not going to really answer your questions. (I say this having answered several of them :). I would recommend "The woman that never evolved" by Sarah Hrdy. As a feminist in the 70s Hrdy decided to do a survey of primate male/female roles in mating, to try understand how human men and women became who they are (and who has not wondered this?). This book will give you an idea of how so many different animals have come to different roles and possibly why.

Since I have a little time today, I'm adding a couple of tangential references: Mice sperm have responded to sperm competition so much by evolving hooks on their heads and chain up together and swim together which enhances the chances of paternity. Ducks are quite different. they have a lot of forced copulation, but female choice of mate is still quite influential. Duck vaginas are very complicated, with corkscrews and dead ends to make it difficult to copulate without 'consent'.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JimThio ...just a thought. Feel free to contact me directly if you wish to chat about any reading. $\endgroup$
    – shigeta
    May 29, 2012 at 2:17
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Shigeta. So bonobo do not kill each other because their sperms fight (bravely) and humans and chimps kill, stone, and seize each others' car in civil forfeiture because their balls are much smaller and they, rather the sperms have to fight for more mates. That makes a lot of sense. Why are people concerned about the answers. Shouldn't they be exited to understand humans better? Don't we want to understand our species as well as we understand chimps. $\endgroup$
    – user4951
    May 29, 2012 at 10:21
  • $\begingroup$ @JimThio I'm sure it goes deeper than this, but its an okay short answer. A common pattern for primates to live with nonexclusive mating, and just let it all come out in the wash so to speak. $\endgroup$
    – shigeta
    May 29, 2012 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ @JimThio Biology's such a sensitive issue as there are so many social ramifications. I think the commenters just want to make sure that this is all kept on a scientific level. Of course the only answer is for everyone to learn as much as they can about how biology really works. Its very easy to personify these answers, but no worries really as far as I'm concerned. $\endgroup$
    – shigeta
    May 29, 2012 at 16:48

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