Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Social Tolerance Allows Bonobos To Outperform Chimpanzees On A Cooperative Task

File photo of a Bonobo.
by Staff Writers
Leipzig, Germany (SPX) Mar 09, 2007
In experiments designed to deepen our understanding of how cooperative behavior evolves, researchers have found that bonobos, a particularly sociable relative of the chimpanzee, are more successful than chimpanzees at cooperating to retrieve food, even though chimpanzees exhibit strong cooperative hunting behavior in the wild.

The work suggests that some social tendencies or emotions that are adaptive under certain circumstances-such as aggression during competition for mates-can hinder the potential for problem solving under other circumstances, such as sharing of a food resource.

The findings appear online in the journal Current Biology, published by Cell Press, on March 8th and are reported by a team led by Brian Hare of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and Duke University.

By comparing the ability of bonobos and chimpanzees to cooperate in retrieving food, the researchers addressed two hypotheses. The first, the so-called "emotional reactivity hypothesis," predicts that bonobos will cooperate more successfully, because past observations have indicated that they are more tolerant of other individuals than are chimpanzees.

In contrast, the second hypothesis, the "hunting hypothesis," predicts that chimpanzees will cooperate more successfully, thanks to their known ability to cooperatively hunt in the wild.

The researchers found that, consistent with the first hypothesis, bonobos were more tolerant in their behavior toward other bonobos, and they did indeed exhibit more skill in cooperative feeding than did chimpanzees. For example, two bonobos were more likely to both eat when presented with food in a single dish (rather than two separate dishes) than were chimpanzees faced with a similar feeding scenario.

Bonobos also exhibited significantly more sociosexual behavior and play than did chimpanzees under these circumstances. In a related set of experiments, bonobos were found to be better than chimpanzees at cooperating (e.g., by simultaneously pulling a rope) to retrieve food that was not easily divisible-that is, food that might be easily monopolized by one of the two individuals.

These observations were consistent with the "emotional reactivity hypothesis" because they potentially reflect the ability of bonobos to tolerate the presence of one another in feeding contexts. The findings also run counter to the "hunting hypothesis," which predicts that chimpanzees-owing to their cooperative hunting skills-would outperform bonobos in cooperative feeding even when food wasn't easily divisible.

The authors report that the new work is of particular value because it provides an experimental comparison of social tolerance and cooperation in bonobos and chimpanzees-two closely related species that help inform our understanding of how social behavior evolved in the primate lineage. The findings suggest that one way in which the skill of social problem solving can arise is through evolutionary selection on emotional systems, such as those controlling fear and aggression.

The researchers include Brian Hare of Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany and Duke University in Durham, NC; Alicia P. Melis, Vanessa Woods, and Sara Hastings of Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany; Richard Wrangham of Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. The research of B.H. and A.P.M. is supported by a Sofja Kovalevskaja award received from The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research. Hare et al.: "Tolerance Allows Bonobos to Outperform Chimpanzees on a Cooperative Task." Publishing in Current Biology 17, 1-5, April 3, 2007 DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2007.02.040.

Email This Article

Related Links
Darwin Today At

Why Do Birds Migrate
Tucson AZ (SPX) Mar 07, 2007
Why do some birds fly thousands of miles back and forth between breeding and non-breeding areas every year whereas others never travel at all? One textbook explanation suggests either eating fruit or living in non-forested environments were the precursors needed to evolve migratory behavior. Not so, report a pair of ecologists from The University of Arizona in Tucson. The pressure to migrate comes from seasonal food scarcity.

  • Global Disaster Bill Declines In 2006 Says Swiss Re
  • Thousands Flee Indonesia Landslide Fearing New Calamity
  • Death And Destruction After Powerful Indonesia Quake
  • Indian Army Airlifts Thousands Stranded On Kashmir Highway

  • EU Summit Seeks Unity On Tackling Global Warming
  • Wet Desert Of India Drying Out
  • The U.N.'s War On Global Warming
  • Banning New Coal Power Plants Will Slow Warming

  • Satellite Scientists Set To Descend On Hobart
  • CSIRO Imagery Shows Outer Great Barrier Reef At Risk From River Plumes
  • Scientists Gear Up For Envisat 2007 Symposium
  • ITT Passes Critical Design Review for GOES-R Advanced Baseline Imager

  • Progress Made in Biomass-to-Biofuels Conversion Process
  • China Bans New Small Coal-Based Power Generators
  • Unlocking The Secrets Of High-Temperature Superconductors
  • Iran Seeks Closer Naval Ties With Oil-Starved India

  • A Year Of Added Life More Valuable For The Young
  • Researchers Reconstruct Spread Of Bird Flu From China
  • Two Weapons Ready For AIDS Fight
  • Troubling Trends In AIDS Cases

  • Social Tolerance Allows Bonobos To Outperform Chimpanzees On A Cooperative Task
  • Some Corals Might Be Able To Fight The Heat
  • Why Do Birds Migrate
  • Fish, Trees, Cuddly Mammal Up For Protection From Human Trade

  • Asian Pollution Linked To Stronger Pacific Storm System
  • As An Economy Blossoms An Ancient Capital Suffocates
  • Canada's Oil Sands To Keep Polluting
  • UN Forum Makes Limited Progress On Mercury Emissions

  • Could Baby Boomers Be Approaching Retirement In Worse Shape Than Their Predecessors
  • Time For TV Detox
  • DNA Study Explains Unique Diversity Among Melanesians
  • First Direct Electric Link Between Neurons And Light-Sensitive Nanoparticle Films Created

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement