Email Print Share

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 Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.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 U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2022 budget of $8.8 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

mail icon Get News Updates by Email 

Connect with us online
NSF website:
NSF News:
For News Media:
Awards database:

Follow us on social
Twitter: and