Ranking (biology)

developing rankings and the behaviors of the animals merged in them was examined particularly intensively by the behavior biologists with the house chicken, why for the hierarchy in a social group the descriptive expression chopping order settled as popular synonym for ranking in the linguistic usage.

Chopping order designates, a special development of the social behavior observable in human and animal groups: If verbal or violent aggressive behavior is not verpönt and otherwise impossible, strong, dominant factor individuals implement their superiority opposite other group members more or less inconsiderately.

Table of contents

origin of the term chopping order

chopping order is a term from the early period of the Ethologie, which was used in place of the today more usual designation ranking. Itprobably resulted from the observation of chickens, with which the struggle-higher animals “away-chopped” struggle-lower animals with bill blows with defending for example their requirements for fodder place and strengthen so their position.

One can observe on each chicken yard and note for each animal in a Ethogramm accurately, whichChicken in a group of chickens which other chickens “chops” and by which chickens this chicken is chopped. As result one will frequently state that only one chicken chops all other chickens and hardly per is chopped; and that again only one chicken of allothers one chops and after other chickens chops never or only extremely rarely. This form of the social interaction is interpreted then as a sign of a ranking, in the one of the chickens the highest-ranking chicken is (called alpha chicken) and the struggle-lowest (called omega chicken). Everythingother chickens are to be located in this ranking between the two extremes. Rank-lower chickens let themselves be driven out without large Gegenwehr for example by struggle-higher animals of the fodder place; the struggle-higher chickens attain so advantages, among other things also when visiting quiescent places.

of the use of oneRanking

by the training of rankings Kraft and Zeit costing disputes between the members of a group - for example around the distribution of fodder or water - remain limited to a minimum. Rank-high animals are at the same time in all rule particularly strong and have often larger reproduction chancesas their struggle-low kind comrades: Also this is an advantage for continued on a long-term basis the group. Struggle-high individuals fulfill at the same time as guidance animals often determined “obligations”, for example with the observation and the defense of sources of danger, when leading a group to fodder places and watering places and occasionally even withSmooth from disputes between struggle-low animals.

Developing and the change of a ranking presuppose the fact that the animals of a group can recognize each other „personally “- also serves in the long run the long-term continued the group.

examples of rankings

  • to a wolf herd belong ingeneral 10 to 15 animals. Only the highest-ranking wolves come to the mating and to the reproduction. Over rank by males and by females with gestures of threatening, in addition, with direct attacks one fights. A been subject wolf can withdraw itself with drawn in tail, if it ofanother it is threatened and to show in such a way that he recognizes the superiority of the other one. Changes of the face expression, the body attitude, as well as tail movements are fast noticed and answered within the herd. In their social behaviors house dog the wolves is very similar. A well socialized dogbehaves opposite each humans as to a struggle-higher dog. In Germany the behavior was investigated particularly intensively by dogs and wolves by Eric Zimen.
  • From some fish types in the Karibik it became admits that it their combat capability and their rank in the Fischschwarm accordingly not onlyit changes their Farbtönung but that in some cases even changes of the sex were observable.
  • Also with wasps the rank of the Individuuen is very important. Rank-higher wasps must put work less, may more own eggs and worry more intensively about the own brood. Size and dominancea wasp decide on their rank in the group. As researchers in the renowned science trade paper Nature reported, each field wasp well visibly carries the knowing marks of its rank for all different within the front range of their head: a sample from black marks in the yellow “face”; the more dominanter, the more marks.Fight to dominant factor of animals, as was it shown, embittered for their status.

experimental research

  • Elizabeth Tibbets of the University OF Arizona in the USA and its colleague James Dale of the Simon drill University in Canada beta-practiced by a cooling immobilizing in the refrigerator wasps anddrew a new face sample for in such a way calmed down wasps with a Zahnstocherstift afterwards. Some wasps received more strongly spotted faces, with others to marks were taken off. In such a way changed wasps were set individually in each case with another, nature-left wasp of same weight class into a glass container. There they foughtagainst each other, in order to clarify the “balance of power”.
In the evaluation of the produced struggles for power that there must be still further, unexplored information, about behavior pattern proved or chemical signals. If a wasp mixes these information, about if it pretends another rank, it is drakonisch punished. Evenif the balance of power is clarified long, a “Vortäuscherin” suffers further from the aggressions of the dominant factors wasp.
  • With apes there are ranking conditions, into which both the males and the females with their boys are included. In an experiment a struggle-low ape an electrode became inBrain implantiert, which could stimulate the nerve center for threatening behavior there. Kind of such doped” by the test manager at suitable opportunities animal “ascended in the ranking inexorably, until it took the point place - and also then kept, when the Elektrostimulation was terminated. In this way could shownit becomes that with Primaten not alone the body strength is responsible for rank in its group, but beyond that also as it were psychological arrangements as “daring courage”.


  • Peter A. Berger:Individualizing: Status uncertainty and experience variety. Westdt. Publishing house, Opladen 1996, ISBN 3-531-12790-X
  • Andreas Humpert: Statusdevianz and nachbarschaftliche contact avoidance of children. Meal 1996, Univ., thesis.

see also:


  > German to English > de.wikipedia.org (Machine translated into English)