Anticipation and anxiety always surround the electoral process. Different appointing systems play an integral role in choosing the governing leader of a country.
A single leader controls animals living in cooperative groups, much like in human society. Different animals have various methods of electing their leaders, or in some cases, the leader elects themselves.
Animals don’t stand in lines to vote or make use of voting machines like us. However, they do make overall collective decisions that affect their everyday lives.
Social animals and their methods of choosing a leader vary in different species. From elephants to bees, each has its own way of smoothly running their respective societies. There are surprising studies and findings of animals practising distinct voting systems, some even corresponding to humans.
Here is a look at how different animal species choose their leaders:
One of the most evident examples of democracy is seen in the interesting society of bees. In a beehive, all bees fall into three categories: queen bees, worker bees, and drones. All worker bees are female, and their job consists of collecting pollen, feeding, and protecting the hive. On the other hand, drones are males who solely exist to mate with the queen.
A queen bee lays two types of eggs: fertilised eggs, which hatch into female bees who will either be workers or queens, and unfertilized eggs, which hatch into male bees and become drones. When the queen is injured, rejected by the hive, or close to death, she decides to give up her throne. After the bees observe that her egg-laying process has slowed down, they decide to appoint a new queen.
To choose the new potential queen, worker bees choose randomly fertilised eggs and feed them special food when they hatch. The worker bees place these eggs in a separate hive, where they continue to feed and grow. The first larva to mature becomes the new queen.
But things get violent after the elected leader destroys all her competitors, i.e., the still-growing larvae. If there are two queens elected at the same time, a stinging contest ensues where the last bee standing becomes the new queen. This violent model is an exception to democracy.
At times when a hive grows too large to accommodate all, bees come together to make decisions democratically. Faced with a life-or-death problem and choosing a new home, bees practise consensus democracy.
Tonkean macaques, residing in the forests of Sulawesi, an Indonesian Island, follow an identical voting form. They travel in groups for food and shelter without any conflict. Any macaque, regardless of gender and age, can become a leader.
The beginning of voting process starts with a group of macaques heading towards a fruit patch. When a macaque would like to move to a desired patch, it steps in the direction it wants to go, stops, and looks behind to see if the rest of the group is following.
whereas another macaque wanting to move into another fruit patch does the same by heading in another direction. Then, the monkeys start to cast their vote by joining one of the two macaques competing. This is done based on their preferences and relationships with other monkeys in the group.
The voting is complete once the macaque stops looking back at the troop. The remaining monkeys join the group with the largest number of members. To stay together, the monkeys that vote for the unchosen route join the rest and move forward.
Not every animal species has a simple and collective decision-making process. Chimpanzees are the perfect example of dominance and power struggles. Gaining power in a chimpanzee society involves political gains, bribery, and deception, a case very similar to humans.
The great apes have a leader who is always an experienced adult male. But without the support of his friends, he cannot reach the top. So, the potential chimpanzee leaders start building coalitions with both sexes. The chimpanzee with the most followers is selected as the leader of the group.
However, according to primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, the power struggle in chimpanzees can turn complex and violent. The loser who fails to become ruler is sometimes banished from the troop altogether. This can occur if he makes poor decisions that affect other chimpanzees in the group.
As these apes hold grudges like humans do, they tend to remember the leader’s mistakes. In this manner, they select another chimp as the leader. Alpha chimpanzees, whose primary interest is mating, aren’t always determined by birth. They sometimes use the pecking order—a dominant who controls the submissive and even resorts to terrorising others to keep up with the high status.
Sometimes a chimp leader takes his associates and wage war on another group, which results in causalities. The winners overtake the losers and combine the two communities.
As stated above, honeybees are not only democratic but also follow the matriarchy. But it isn’t the only animal species that follows this system of society.
Elephants are led by the oldest female in the herd. As these matriarchs are considered to be intelligent and experienced in memorising the landscapes for food and water, they easily guide their herds. There is no voting system or power play, as the oldest female elephant becomes the undisputed leader.
Many might find it surprising, but the lionesses, not the king of the jungle, rule over the lion pride. Although they have a male lion that is known to be the leader, it is the lionesses in the pride who govern. They guard the territory, hunt for food, and keep the pride together.
Among the mammal species, killer whales, or orcas, follow a matrilineal pattern. After they give birth to their offspring, older female orcas guide the whole family, including the offspring’s calves. She has taken care of the entire family for around 50 years or so. Killer whales travel together in multiple family units.
A queen controls ants, similar to how bees have a queen responsible for mating and breeding. The remaining ants must carry out various tasks to sustain the colony’s survival.
Animals that also follow matriarchy include mole rats, meerkats, bonobos, and lemurs.
In spotted hyena society, it is the female hyena who takes over and leads the pack. This animal species follows a matrilineal pattern, but only the alpha female gets to rule. Each female undergoes assignment to a high rank or social hierarchy after birth. Female hyenas remain at the top of the pecking order and have increased aggression.
But rather than intrinsic factors, extrinsic factors play a much larger role in helping alpha females dominate the clan. A hyena’s one-on-one interaction with other members helps them gain more followers. If a female hyena has more social support, she is declared the leader. Moreover, females and cubs are given easy access to food and water, ensuring that the future offspring are healthier
Wolves have an interesting way of choosing their alphas. These animals move around in packs, a name given to a family of wolves. The pack is led by an adult male and an adult female considered to be the alphas of the group.
The couple is dominant in the pack and the only one who breeds and produces pups. The social structure of a wolf pack changes annually. In the hierarchy, or pecking order, the wolves move up and down according to rank. For instance, a wolf from the lower pecking order can challenge the alpha wolf. If the alpha loses, he will likely leave the group, find another mate, and start his pack or family.
The alpha pair controls the group of wild dogs, making them similar to other species. By displaying dominance through aggression, they find themselves at the top of the ranks. The other dogs act as subordinate members of a mixed-sex pack. Also called helpers, they support the alpha pair in raising the offspring, bringing food, and even babysitting when the members are away.
These wild societies have unique ways of electing a leader and maintaining social order. Many voting practises in these animal societies appear similar to those of humans. Their electoral process can teach us immensely about leadership.
But when it comes to pecking orders or violently destroying other candidates, voting with EVM machines and ballots seems more preferable to humans.
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