Steven Veach

Standing on the highest rung of the social ladder has its benefits, but it comes with drawbacks like increased stress — at least in the animal kingdom, according to a team of biologists led by associate research scholar Laurence Gesquiere and professor emeritus Jeanne Altmann. In a nine-year study of savannah baboons in Kenya, the authors found that high-ranking males had more testosterone and lower stress-hormone levels than other males, with one significant exception: The highest-ranking “alpha males” had much higher levels of stress hormone than their lower-ranking counterparts. The finding, published in Science July 15, suggests that “being at the very top may be more costly than previously thought.”