Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 161–168

A model for leveling coalitions among primate males: toward a theory of egalitarianism

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00265-003-0692-2

Cite this article as:
Pandit, S.A. & van Schaik, C.P. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2003) 55: 161. doi:10.1007/s00265-003-0692-2


We present a simple model of within-group leveling coalitions among male primates. The model assumes that the value of the coalition is the sum of the payoffs of its members, that the individual’s payoff is monotonically decreasing with its rank and that coalitions do not cause rank changes. It predicts that mainly mid- to low rankers engage in leveling coalitions, and that most coalition partners are of adjacent ranks. These predictions agree reasonably well with observations in nature. The model also makes the novel predictions that leveling coalitions are found where male mating competition has only a moderate contest component, and that male dominance ranks will become poorly differentiated where leveling coalitions are frequent. Both these predictions are consistent with observations on groups of macaques and baboons. The model also may account for leveling coalitions among egalitarian human foragers, without making additional assumptions about special human capabilities.


MaleModelingPrimateWithin-group leveling coalition

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological Anthropology and AnatomyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological, Chemical and Physical SciencesIllinois Institute of TechnologyChicagoUSA