How animals transfer power from one leader to another: Brute force, inheritance and consensus

An eastern chimpanzee in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania, is shown here. An alpha male typically maintains his position at the top by building bonds with other male chimps in the social group, according to Michael Wilson, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota.

(CNN)Bees, chimps, clownfish and hyenas all live in groups with a leader or dominant individual. So do many other animals. How does power shift from one animal to another?

The transfer of power is sometimes not that simple.
As the United States inaugurates a new president on Wednesday, here's a look at the different ways the animal kingdom handles changes in leadership.

    Brute force

      For chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, a change in the alpha male can be a fairly brutal affair.
      "So in human societies, especially liberal democracies, we have this idea of a leader that is looking beyond their own interest, somebody who is thinking about the interests of the group as a whole, and I think that leadership in many, maybe most, group-living animals isn't that," said Michael Wilson, an associate professor in the departments of anthropology and ecology, evolution and behavior at the University of Minnesota in Saint Paul.
      "In chimpanzees, especially, it's more a matter of individuals bullying their way to the top of the hierarchy and getting what they want."
        Wilson worked in Gombe National Park in Tanzania, where primatologist Jane Goodall had previously studied chimps. There he observed Frodo, a particularly fearsome and aggressive alpha male. Some males like Frodo, Wilson said, are able "to maintain power by being big and mean, but it's usually the case in chimpanzee society that males need some political support from other males.
        "That's something that Frodo's brother Freud did while he was in power -- he spent more time grooming other males and kind of building a coalition to keep himself in power."
        An alpha male is usually able to hold the position for three to five years. At that point, a younger male would likely make a challenge such as shaking the tree the alpha might be sleeping in and generally behaving aggressively. Sometimes, the challenge is violent; in rare cases, the alpha ends up dead.
        "Male chimpanzees who have been defeated sometimes throw a tantrum. This kind of behavior is seen in adult males who have trouble accepting the situation. They go into depression or don't eat," said Frans de Waal, a professor emeritus at Emory University in Atlanta and author of the book "Chimpanzee Politics."
        Most ultimately do accept the new alpha, however, including Frodo, who in his retirement appeared largely uninterested in social interaction and spent nearly all of his time searching for food.

        Generation game

        In some female-dominated animal groups, different behavior is at play.
        One of Africa's top predators, spotted hyenas assume the social ranks of their mothers. When the queen, or alpha female, dies, her youngest daughter simply assumes her position, usually without any disputes within the group, said Jenn Smith, an associate professor of biology and chair of the biology department at Mills College in Oakland, California.