Dominance hierarchies are widespread in animal social groups and often have measureable effects on individual health and reproductive success. Dominance ranks are not static individual attributes, however, but instead are influenced by two independent processes: 1) changes in hierarchy membership and 2) successful challenges of higher-ranking individuals. Understanding which of these processes dominates the dynamics of rank trajectories can provide insights into fitness benefits of within-sex competition. This question has yet to be examined systematically in a wide range of taxa due to the scarcity of long-term data and a lack of appropriate methodologies for distinguishing between alternative causes of rank changes over time. Here, we expand on recent work and develop a new likelihood-based Elo rating method that facilitates the systematic assessment of rank dynamics in animal social groups, even when interaction data are sparse. We apply this method to characterize long-term rank trajectories in wild eastern chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) and find remarkable sex differences in rank dynamics, indicating that females queue for social status while males actively challenge each other to rise in rank. Further, our results suggest that natal females obtain a head start in the rank queue if they avoid dispersal, with potential fitness benefits.
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