[monkeywire] Bonobos join forces to outdo chimps

Carrie McLaren temporary181 at stayfreemagazine.org
Mon Apr 9 22:04:25 EDT 2007

Bonobos join forces to outdo chimps
09 April 2007

We know them as the most highly sexed of all the apes. Now it appears 
that the easy-going social life enjoyed by bonobos makes them better 
at cooperating than their more aggressive chimp cousins.

Brian Hare of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology 
in Leipzig, Germany, and colleagues tested how well chimps and 
bonobos coped with challenging social situations. Bonobos, they 
found, were more likely to share a plate of food, using play or sex 
to defuse social tensions. In contrast, chimps' more limited social 
skills meant one individual was more likely to take all the food.

The researchers gave pairs of each species a task that required them 
to work together to retrieve a food reward that neither could reach 
alone. When the food was easily shared, both species quickly learned 
to do this. But when the food was in a single bowl - making it easy 
to monopolise - chimps were less willing to work together (Current 
Biology, vol 17, p 619).

"It's so simple and obvious that no one's ever demonstrated it," says 
Hare. "You can't cooperate if you can't share the spoils." The 
flexibility that allows humans to work together evolved more from 
social adeptness than high-powered reasoning, he suggests.

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