Yesterday, during the party, Negra and Jody found themselves eating from the same pinata.
Negra, being dominant to Jody, decides that she’d rather not share. As Negra pulls the pinata away from Jody, Jody gets upset and begins to just slightly bare her teeth out of fear. Negra then displays a facial expression known as a full open grin. As you can see, her upper and lower lips are drawn all the way back, exposing all of her large and powerful teeth. This is a sign of fear or excitement, and is often seen when social conflict breaks out.
Jody responds with a full closed grin. Her lips are drawn back like Negra’s, but her jaw is closed. She is upset that Negra has pulled rank, so she goes to Burrito and Foxie for reassurance.
After being reassured by Burrito and receiving a kiss and a hug from Foxie, Jody returns to Negra, who offers her an extended arm in reconciliation. Jody accepts.
And the Queen gets the pinata.
As it should be.
This is all very similar to the conflict we showed a couple of weeks ago, but in this case all of the behavior was ritualized and no one was harmed in the process. As aggressive as they may be, chimpanzees are also very good at negotiating peaceful settlements to their disagreements. Part of this is due to their dominance hierarchies, which can help predetermine the outcome of smaller skirmishes without the need for fighting.
We mentioned before on this blog how difficult it can be to describe the dominance hierarchy at CSNW. One reason is that these seven chimpanzees had little social experience before coming to the sanctuary. They had to start figuring out how to be chimpanzees when they were already well into adulthood, with no role models to emulate and no culture to absorb – just seven misfits trying to figure things out as they went along.
But another explanation is that the majority of the Cle Elum Seven are female, and in the wild, the hierarchy amongst females is often less linear than it is for males. In some communities, the females seem to be ranked in broad groups rather than by the individual.
I would say that is true for the Cle Elum Seven. It’s clear that Jamie, Negra, Jody, and Burrito are dominant individuals, but among them, it’s not always clear how they are ranked. The hierarchy is complex, fluid, and context-dependent. For example, Burrito’s dominance displays are respected and tolerated by all of the females, but Jamie can steal his lunch with impunity. Jamie gets upset when Jody gets a hold of prized food, but she is not always successful in her attempts to steal it away. Negra always submits to Burrito, but she steals from Jamie and Jody. Honestly, it can get confusing.
Nevertheless, we refer to Jamie as the alpha of the group because she regularly fights for dominance and usually gets her way. Negra, on the other hand, seems to earn respect without trying.
All she wants is her night bags, a quiet nap, and occasionally, someone else’s pinata.