October 13, 2008

Study: “˜Hippie’ Apes Also Hunt Other Apes For Meat

Researchers have discovered the first evidence of wild bonobos hunting and eating the young of other primate species.

Once considered by experts as the only chimpanzee species to resist hunting and killing other apes for food, bonobos don't appear to embrace a "make-love-not-war" philosophy, researchers reported in the October 14th issue of Current Biology.

Experts had previously believed that unlike their chimpanzee counterparts, bonobos "“ also known as "hippie" apes "“ would restrict what meat they do eat to forest antelopes, squirrels, and rodents.

Researchers made the discovery that these free-loving primates also hunt and kill other primates while they were studying a bonobo population living in LuiKotale, Salonga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They had been observing the bonobos there for the last five years, which is what made the new observations possible.

"These findings are particularly relevant for the discussion about male dominance and bonding, aggression and hunting"”a domain that was thought to separate chimpanzees and bonobos," said Gottfried Hohmann of the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

"In chimpanzees, male-dominance is associated with physical violence, hunting, and meat consumption. By inference, the lack of male dominance and physical violence is often used to explain the relative absence of hunting and meat eating in bonobos. Our observations suggest that, in contrast to previous assumptions, these behaviors may persist in societies with different social relations."

Bonobos live only in the lowland forest south of the river Congo, and, along with chimpanzees, they are humans' closest relatives. Bonobos are perhaps best known for their promiscuity: sexual acts both within and between the sexes are a common means of greeting, resolving conflicts, or reconciling after conflicts.

"This has implications for models on early humans that people have proposed how humans have evolved," said Hohmann.

Researchers living in LuiKotale, Salonga National Park observed the bonobos silently stalk through the woods on the ground, trying to get underneath a group of chimps before clambering up a tree in a sudden attack.

The bonobo hunts were successful on fewer than half the excursions and in some cases shared the meat. Hohmann said this presents evidence they were willing to share to encourage group hunting.

Image Courtesy Kabir Bakie - Wikipedia


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