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Bonobos offer a glimpse into human alliances of yesteryear

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Nov18,2023

Bonobos offer aper&ccedil ;u of the human alliances of yesteryear

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Adult female bonobo from the Kokolopori population grooming an adolescent male from a neighboring group.

Agence France-Presse

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Human beings are capable of form strategic alliances with other humans beyond their family circle or loved ones.

According to a study published in the journal < em>Science(New window) (in English), they are not the only ones. Bonobos team up with strangers in a variety of ways, such as grooming, sharing food, and even forging alliances against sexual attackers.

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Female bonobos vocalize in chorus during a group encounter.

Liran Samuni, the lead author of the study and member of the Goettingen Primate Center in Germany, tells AFP that studying primates is like opening a window into our past, providing clues about how humans began to collaborate on a larger scale. scale.

Bonobos (Pan paniscus) are, along with chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), the living beings closest to the human species. Bonobos and chimpanzees are also very close.

Relationships between chimpanzees, which are hostile and likely to lead to fatal violence, are widely studied, difference in interactions between bonobos, an endangered species.

These primates are difficult to observe in their natural habitat, as they live in remote areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

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Bonobos from the Kokolopori population.

Because of conclusions about chimpanzees, some researchers inferred that hostility toward strangers was inherent in human nature, even hidden beneath the veneer of social norms.

Liran Samuni and Martin Surbeck, a Harvard professor and founder of the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve in the DRC, studied the monkeys for two years.

The first thing What they do […] is try to escape, Martin Surbeck told AFP, explaining that it took time for the bonobos to forget the presence humans and behave normally.

The researchers would get up at 4 a.m. to walk through the forest with the help of their local guides to groups of bonobos and follow their activities throughout the day.

They focused on two small groups of 11 and 20 adults, noting with astonishment that they spent 20% of their time together, eating, resting, moving around.

Every individual is different. There are introverts, there are extroverts, there are those who are more sociable than others.

A quote from Liran Samuni, Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve

The researchers also observed that cooperation between the two groups was mainly driven by a few individuals who already tended to be the most cooperative within their own group.

These individuals entered into relationships with the sociable bonobos of the other group, creating a system of mutual benefit or reciprocal altruism.

Scientists also found that females, within their own group or allied with those of the other group, formed coalitions to chase an individual from a fruit tree or prevent non-sexual advance. desired from a male.

We don't see in bonobos the sexual coercion common in chimpanzees, Surbeck continues, explaining that this may be partly due to x27;mutual aid between females.

For the authors, this study offers an alternative scenario to that which would like cooperation to go against human nature, or whether it arises from connections between extended families.

But that doesn't mean that reconstructing the human past should be based solely on bonobos, says State University scientist Joan Silk of Arizona in a commentary accompanying the study (New window) (in English).

Chimpanzees are closer to #x27;man in other ways: for example, they use more tools and hunt animal prey.

Male chimpanzees form close bonds with other males and support their aggression while male bonobos forge strong bonds with females.

Understanding the selection process that led to these divergences could help elucidate how and why humans became such surprising primates, she concludes.

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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