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News Release 11-142

Pity the Boss Man

Researchers find that being at the top may come at a high cost

a adult male baboon resting on a rock early in the morning.

An adult male peacefully resting on a rock early in the morning.

July 14, 2011

View a video with Princeton ecologist Laurence Gesquiere.

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Ecologists at Princeton University recently discovered top-ranking male baboons exhibit higher levels of stress hormones than second-ranking males, suggesting that being at the top of a social hierarchy may be more costly than previously thought.

By studying baboon groups in Kenya, the researchers, for the first time, identified higher levels of stress hormones, or glucocoricoids, in alpha males as compared to beta males.

"These results are very interesting because they provide insights into complex societies and have potential applications to human behavior and societal structures," says Kaye Reed, program director for physical anthropology at the National Science Foundation which funded the study.

The study's results are in the July 15 issue of the journal Science.

For more information on levels of stress hormones, testosterone in male baboons and the costs of high social rank, see Princeton's press release.


Media Contacts
Dana Wilson, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-8125, email:
Martin Mbugua, Princeton University, (609) 258-5733, email:

Program Contacts
Kaye Reed, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-7850, email:

Laurence Gesquiere, Princeton University, email:
Jeanne Altmann, Princeton University, email:
Susan Alberts, Duke University, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, its budget is $8.1 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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