14 Jan 2013

Make love not war, and eat together: Bonobos show the way

Bonobo monkeys, or pan paniscus to give them the species its latin name, share with their larger cousins, the common chimpanzee, a considerable majority of their genes with us humans. In fact these two species are our closest remaining relatives on this planet. The behaviour patterns of the bonobo in its natural environment in the Congo basin have several interesting aspects, the best known of which being their almost constant fornication with almost any partner available. And, as a probable result, far lower levels of agressivity than the larger common chimpanzee, and an apparent absence of jealousy since partners, for both sexes, are multiple. It is clearly a case of "make love not war" with the bonobo. It is also said that bonobos tend to be matriarchal in their organisation and that the females use sexuality to control males. Humans do this too, in some cases!

But this rampant albeit rapid sexuality is not the only endearing aspect of the bonobos' behaviour. They are also capable of concern for each other, apart from those seen as potential sexual partners, and also prefer to share food rather than eat alone. The experiment conducted below shows this latter, perhaps more surprising aspect of their social conduct. Hitherto, many thought that only humans had this preference for sharing their food with others, even unknown strangers, to eating alone.