Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bonobos: No Longer "Flower Children"

Bonobos, close relatives to chimpanzees, were originally thought of as “flower children” due to their promiscuity and peaceful demeanor. Unlike chimpanzees who are known to hunt in groups for other primates and dominate females, bonobos were thought to eat forest antelopes, squirrels, and rodents.

According to research done at Salonga National Park bonobos do in fact hunt and eat other primates. The difference between them and chimpanzees is that the bonobo females have a role in hunting and sharing the meat. In three months the researchers saw six instances where bonobos, both male and female, coordinated hunts and ate their prey, as well as numerous unsuccessful attempts at catching the other primates.

They think that the differences between chimpanzee and bonobo hunting may be the roles that females play in these groups. In chimpanzees the males hunt in groups, share the meat and sometimes use it as a tool to get females to mate with them. This is not the case with bonobos, where the females appear to be the more dominant of the sexes. Bonobos are known to engage in sexual acts much more often and not just for reproduction. They engage in these acts to greet others, resolve conflicts, or reconcile after a conflict. Because of this male bonobos may not have the motivation that male chimpanzees have to hunt.

Posted by: Tara Quist (5)


At 8:19 PM, Blogger PWH said...

It seems as if the Bonobos care more about unity and are less primitive than the chimps.While I was reading this the whole thing from class about the prairie vole and vasopressin came into my mind. I think this reminded me of that example in class because it is a case in which the males are dominate over the females in one species and then not in another.Therefore, I wonder if a hormone like vasopressin is the cause of this difference between Bonobos and chimps.

Chantal Gomes

At 11:05 AM, Blogger PWH said...

Very interesting topic. I never knew that bonobos and chimps were carnivores and hunt other types of primates. I wonder if there are any underlining reasons as to why females play a more dominate role in hunting than within the bonobo species than within the chimp species.

-Joanne Philippeaux

At 11:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting, it seems that the bonobos are alot more like humans than i prevously thought. I also never knew that both chimps and bonobos hunted other primates. I wonder if their dominance structure has to do with thier sexual relationships.

Erica Damon

At 11:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog surprised me. I would never of guessed that chimpanzees and bonobos ate other primates. That's an odd idea to me. But I wonder why the females are involved so much in the hunting process. Females of the human species just in the past 60 years have started to be "bread-makers" and im gathering never hunted way back in the day. So I'm wondering why and how this evolved to the way it is. What mechanism is the cause for this, and what advantage it has in order for it to be passed on to the next generation.

Katie Cole

At 6:47 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Interesting article. It seems that there has to be some reason that bonobos include females in their hunting groups. This article brings up a lot of questions as to why things are the way they are for these primates. I would assume that there are social, survival, as well as reproductive benefits to this bonobo lifestyle. I wonder if it's not so much that the male bonobos don't have the motivation to hunt or if they don't really have the need to. How exactly are bonobos close relatives to chimpanzees aside from both being primates? It seems that they might not be that closely related after all. What do you think?

Posted by: Lindsay Goodyear

At 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very interesting. I wonder exactly when and why female domincance evolved in bonobos. Every other higher primate species I can think of (chimps, baboons, and gorillas) for example, operate in an alpha-male kind of society. I believe that bonobos are more closely related to humans than even chimps are. Would this suggest that female dominance emerged after the chimp-bonobo split? It would be interesting to study if female dominance was a characteristic of very early humanoids, who were evolutionarily closely related to the bonobos.

-Corinne Delisle

At 7:34 PM, Blogger PWH said...

It is interesting how close Bonobos and Chimps are related and how differently they act socially. Is it common for Bonobos to eat other primates? Do they ever prey on their own species? What is there main food source?

Rob Lubenow

At 10:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was an interesting entry. I wasn't aware how socially different chimps and Bonobos were from each other. I wonder how do male Bonobos attract females when they decide to mate? I understand that male chimps use meat to attract a mate but how do Bonobos attract the opposite sex?

- Debbie Theodat

At 10:19 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Thanks for all of the comments! I can't answer all of them because a lot of research needs to be done still, but I will answer what I can based off of the articles I found.

In an article from I found that bonobos are in fact our closest living relatives. They are closer to us than the common chimpanzee. Bonobos are actually a type of chimpanzee and are sometimes referred to as pygmy chimps. The bonobos and common chimpanzees split about 2.5 million years ago.

Female bonobos are dominant as compared to chimpanzees where the males are dominant. This does affect the species sexually because in the bonobos it is almost a free for all. There are male/male, female/female, and male/female relationships. Not only do they have sexual intercourse they also masturbate, have oral sex, and partake in group activities of the sort. The other big difference is that when a group of bonobos come into contact with another group of bonobos the females initiate sex with the males of the opposite group. When an encounter with two chimpanzee groups occurs there is normally a battle and it is not unusual for some to end up dead.

Chimpanzees do eat more meat than bonobos, who originally were thought to be herbivores. The plant that they like to feast on the most is haumania, which is high in protein and nutrients and does not contain high levels of chemicals. Chimpanzees do not have this plant in their areas and the plants that they do have contain much higher levels of tannins, chemicals, which make it more difficult for them to consume. It was just this year the the researchers learned that bonobos do eat other primates and the one that they mentioned was the redtail monkey.

I hope this was of some help and I am sorry to those of you whose questions I could not find the answer to. Keep your eyes open if you are interested though because this was the first study to find that bonobos eat meat, so I am sure there will be more information soon.

Posted by: Tara Quist


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