Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Strauss ED, Curley JP, Shizuka D, Hobson EA. 2022 The centennial of the pecking order: current state and future prospects for the study of dominance hierarchies. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 377: 20200432.


© 2022 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.


A century ago, foundational work by Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe described a ‘pecking order’ in chicken societies, where individuals could be ordered according to their ability to exert their influence over their group-mates. Now known as dominance hierarchies, these structures have been shown to influence a plethora of individual characteristics and outcomes, situating dominance research as a pillar of the study of modern social ecology and evolution. Here, we first review some of the major questions that have been answered about dominance hierarchies in the last 100 years.Next,we introduce the contributions to this theme issue and summarize howthey provide ongoing insight in the epistemology, physiology and neurobiology, hierarchical structure, and dynamics of dominance. These contributions employ the full range of research approaches available to modern biologists. Cross-cutting themes emerging from these contributions include a focus on cognitive underpinnings of dominance, the application of network-analytical approaches, and the utility of experimental rank manipulations for revealing causal relationships. Reflection on the last 100 years of dominance research reveals how Schjelderup- Ebbe’s early ideas and the subsequent research helped drive a shift from an essentialist view of species characteristics to the modern recognition of rich inter-individual variation in social, behavioural and physiological phenotypes. This article is part of the theme issue ‘The centennial of the pecking order: current state and future prospects for the study of dominance hierarchies’.

Included in

Biology Commons