Donald Trump, the GOP nominee, joins host Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show.” (Andrew Lipovsky/NBC Universal Media, LLC via Reuters)

Television personality and exiting NBC host Billy Bush is an alpha male. Donald Trump is an alpha, too, as Eric Trump would have you believe. So argued the younger Trump, lending his voice to the refrain that his father’s “grab them by the p—” comments should be dismissed as “locker room banter.”

On Monday, the 32-year-old son of the Republican presidential nominee defended Donald Trump’s lewd braggadocio in an interview with the Colorado Gazette. It was damage control in the wake of a 2005 recorded conversation between Billy Bush and Donald Trump, published Friday by The Washington Post.

While professional athletes and those familiar with locker rooms cracked down on the banter defense as fallacious and harmful, Eric Trump further qualified that among the most dominant, or “alpha,” men such conversations were only natural. “I think sometimes when guys are together they get carried away,” he said to the Gazette, “and sometimes that’s what happens when alpha personalities are in the same presence.”

But, like the notion that locker rooms are rancid with boasts of sexual assault, the concept of the human alpha, too, is just that: a myth, as real as James Bond or Patrick Bateman.

That is not to say the idea of the alpha is not pervasive. Eric Trump is far from the first person to ascribe the quality to Trump. Opinion pages froth with Trump’s perceived alpha-ness. As Florida State University professor Diane Roberts wrote in a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed: “Trump’s supporters call him an ‘alpha male’; they use ‘dominant,’ ‘hard-driving’ and other unsubtly phallic adjectives. Running mate Mike Pence coquettishly refers to his ‘broad shoulders.’”

Consider Ed McMullen, Trump’s South Carolina co-chairman, who described Trump in February as “the alpha male who says exactly what is on his mind.”

To “Dilbert” comic creator Scott Adams, who has willed himself into something of a Trump whisperer, the candidate’s appeal can be expressed in alpha-versus-beta terms. “Trump is well on his way to owning the identities of American, Alpha Males, and Women Who Like Alpha Males,” he said to The Post in March. “Clinton is well on her way to owning the identities of angry women, beta males, immigrants, and disenfranchised minorities.”

Nigel Farage, the British politician, likened Donald Trump’s performance at Sunday’s debate to a “silverback gorilla” in the way Trump “dominated” Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, reported CNN.

When asked, primatologist Frans de Waal saw parallels between Trump and alpha chimpanzees. At least, “in the sense of blustering and bluffing,” as he told The Washington Post in May, as well as the businessman’s willingness to take risks.

Defenders of the “alpha male” identity look to biology to give it a veneer of scientific validity. Alpha animals, after all, reap the benefits of their perch at the top of their social hierarchies. An alpha elephant seal lays claim to a harem of female seals; this giant marine mammal guards his group for months, forgoing eating in lieu of a chance to impregnate dozens. An alpha guinea pig’s testosterone levels spike after fighting off other males from their home turf. Alpha chimpanzees rule through a combination of group grooming politics and an iron paw.

The idea of the alpha male can be traced to wolves, and the work of U.S. Geological Survey scientist L. David Mech. His 1970 book, “The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species,” popularized the term, and it caught on, spreading to other areas of animal science. But Mech later lamented it was incorrect, and would refine the terminology based on an additional 40 years of wolf research. From Mech’s website:

One of the outdated pieces of information is the concept of the alpha wolf. “Alpha” implies competing with others and becoming top dog by winning a contest or battle. However, most wolves who lead packs achieved their position simply by mating and producing pups, which then became their pack. In other words they are merely breeders, or parents, and that’s all we call them today, the “breeding male,” “breeding female,” or “male parent,” “female parent,” or the “adult male” or “adult female.” In the rare packs that include more than one breeding animal, the “dominant breeder” can be called that, and any breeding daughter can be called a “subordinate breeder.”

But inaccuracy did not keep the idea from creeping into descriptions of humans. After Frans de Waal further popularized alpha male in his 1982 book “Chimpanzee Politics,” as he told New York magazine, the chimp-human comparisons picked up steam. By the time of Al Gore’s presidential bid, the idea reached the halls of the White House: Campaign adviser Naomi Wolf diagnosed Gore as beta to Bill Clinton’s alpha.

During the mid-00s, the transcendence to alpha from beta became a staple of a certain type of masculine self-help, particularly within the pickup artist community. As outlined in the New Statesman in 2014, the social hierarchy of pickup culture “is framed by the idea of becoming the ‘alpha’ within a group, or at least of understanding the hierarchy of a social situation enough to make sure that a man is valued enough to be a potential mate, literally by ‘demonstrating value.’”

Because the Internet excels at nothing if not ideological cross-pollination, these ideas about social hierarchy began to power some of the more bizarre Trump supporter memes: The GOP candidate, as an alpha, is “Daddy.” His detractors are “cucks,” from “cuckservative— a more loaded twist on the concept of “RINO” or “Republican-in-name-only” — and fair game to be diagnosed from the comment section with low testosterone, or “low T.” (If you take Florida weight-loss doctor Dareld Morris at his word, or at least by his Facebook page, voting for Clinton is a symptom of low testosterone. He is offering a hormone test to check for the condition.) It is possible there are even sillier iterations of Trumpian alpha-ness.

If you are left wondering whether the alpha chimpanzee, which by genetic terms is indeed closely related to humans, could be a worthwhile parallel, consider that our social hierarchies are vastly different. One well-studied alpha chimp, Frodo, was by human standards less a leader worthy of emulation and more a psychopathic despot: He killed and tried to eat a human infant, attacked cartoonist Gary Larson and almost broke Jane Goodall’s neck. Chimpanzees are innately disposed toward violence, a Nature study revealed in 2014.

For the single guy, too, aping the puffed-up chimp is a false start. In 2015, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman pointed to a body of social research indicating that prestige, attainable through confidence and generosity, made men more attractive to women — rather than the stereotypical alpha traits of aggression and dominance.

The popular idea of “alpha” begins to falter further: An alpha chimp is not necessarily the most massive, most powerful or most willing to sniffle down an opponent’s neck. “Sometimes the smallest male can become the alpha male. That’s because they need coalition partners,” de Waal said in May. “They need to keep them happy.”

This includes, the primatologist pointed out, the support of females in the social group. And if that is the case, given Donald Trump’s plummeting polls among women, the candidate is shaping up to be anything but the mythological alpha.