It's been a wild election season in our democracy, and as it turns out, it's been a democratic election season in the wild. At least for one group of baboons. And some bees. It gets interesting. Trace Dominguez and Julian Huguet have the details in today's DNews report.
Scientists with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute were tracking the movement of olive baboons in Kenya when they noticed something odd. Despite the baboon's strong social hierarchy system, the troop practiced a kind of extemporaneous democracy when it came to moving across the savanna.
In other words, the dominant members of the troop -- who typically run the show when it comes to everything else -- didn't have any more say than other members of the troop when it was time to move on. Instead, when two monkeys headed off in different directions, the rest of the troop would decide which one to follow, then gradually go with the majority decision, regardless of hierarchy status.
And if the two pioneering monkeys chose a similar but slightly different trajectory, the group would choose a path that split the difference. The behavior suggests the monkeys are capable of group compromise, a concept which continues to elude the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government.
RELATED: Why The United States Isn't A True Democracy
Democratic behavior is not common in the animal kingdom, but it does pop up from time to time. When honey bee colonies grow too big for one hive, scouts are sent abroad to find a new home. The scout bees lobby for potential locations by returning to their colleagues and making their argument via energetic dancing. Really. There's probably a joke about the Italian Parliament in here, but we have a limited word count.
Scientists who have studied the behavior say that the process truly does resemble a kind of voting process. Majority rules, and the scout bee with the most compelling dance-slash-argument leads the queen bee and the newly independent colony to its next hive.
Meanwhile, back at the old hive, a new queen must be hatched and elevated to the throne. It's a bloody and vicious process, again not unlike elections among our species. Tune into the video for more details from Julian and Trace, or check out this video on the curious phenomenon of authoritarian democracy.
Also keep in mind that our Seeker Daily team will be covering the RNC and the DNC! Stay up-to-date and check us out!
-- Glenn McDonald
BBC: How Democracy Works In Nature
Slate: How Other Animals Choose Their Leaders
NPR: In Animal Kingdom, Voting Of A Different Sort Reigns