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Q: Why aren’t all individuals dominant?

Why has natural selection not lead to all animals (including humans) to be dominant?


While important to understand why some individuals or animals are dominant, it’s equally as important to understand why the submissive, passive, or introverted nature is just as key to the maintenance and development of many social species’ communities (or packs, troups, herds), including our own!

For instance, wolf packs have a highly complex social structure based upon a pecking order. The dominant pair (who are mates, also known as the Alpha pair) are in charge of key tasks like hunting, breeding, eating first, and exhibiting aggression. They are also the most physically strong and assertive members of the pack, without being overly violent. The other wolves in the pack signal their “lower” rank to the alpha pair by allowing them to to eat first, not attempting to breed with either alpha, and exhibiting other forms of submissive body language in front of them.

Here’s what’s often overlooked, but important to understand:

There are not just dominants and submissives. Within all packs, there are several other levels descending from most to least dominant members, just as there are varying levels of submissive members. Each play a different but equally as crucial role and purpose in the pack. For instance, the “lowest” roles in terms of submissive pack members are the  pup caretakers. They do not hunt, fight, or breed. Rather, they serve as “stay home moms” for the Alpha pair’s puppies. Their role is remain in the den with the pups–watching, raising, feeding, protecting and teaching them. This is a huge task that the pack would fall apart without. Just as it would fall apart without an established dominant pair to hunt and provide for them.



Wolf Pack from


All groups of social animals and mammalian communities have some form of dominant leader. Human’s (in the U.S.) have a president, who we choose to elect to help make executive, large-scale decisions for all of us. Importantly, as with any true democratic or just leader, he/she is not a tyrant. A tyrant is not an example of a dominant figure in the human or animal world. Animals that behave in a violent aggressive way all the time in order to establish control over their family or pack are never successful at remaining “on top”. A true dominant leader shares food, cares for young, protects his clan when in danger, and helps fuse the community together.

A strong community of any kind has one or more naturally dominant leaders, as they are necessary to get certain specific and key tasks done. But it also has submissive leaders, and many individuals who play a role somewhere in between. Every healthy pack, group, or society needs a leader, but they also need peers and supporters who willingly appoint, respect and follow that leader. In doing so, they each contribute in their own way to help this leader and community flourish. If everybody tried be dominant, then everybody would end up in different directions, completely alone. And we simply are not evolved or equipped to live that way.

In order to survive–to find food, to make decisions, to fight and protect ourselves, to raise our young, to maintain a healthy and balanced community–we need a tightly knit structure made up of many different, but equally as vital, social roles.


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