Thursday, October 16, 2008

You Go, Girls!

From the world of science comes news that female-dominated societies aren't necessarily less violent than male-dominated ones. At least among the bonobos.

Who, you might ask? The bonobos are some kind of primate living along the Congo. They, along with chimpanzees, are closely related to humans. The bonobos, unlike chimps (and humans), live in female-dominated social groups. Bonobos, unlike chimps (and humans, again), also have a reputation for peaceful behavior. Apparently, they don't resolve conflicts by fighting each other. They resolve conflicts by promiscuous sex: male-female, male-male, female-female. Whatever gets them through the long jungle nights. The bonobos apparently really like banging each other.

Also, where chimpanzees have been known to hunt and kill monkeys for food, the bonobos were not known to do that. Until now, that is. Apparently a new study has shown bonobos do hunt and kill monkeys.
"Unlike the male-dominated societies of their chimpanzee relatives, bonobo society—in which females enjoy a higher social status than males—has a 'make-love-not-war' kind of image. While chimpanzee males frequently band together to hunt and kill monkeys, the more peaceful bonobos were believed to restrict what meat they do eat to forest antelopes, squirrels, and rodents.

"Not so, according to a study, reported in the October 14th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, that offers the first direct evidence of wild bonobos hunting and eating the young of other primate species.

"'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.'
"Overall, the discovery challenges the theory that male dominance and aggression must be causally linked to hunting behavior, an idea held by earlier models of the evolution of aggression in human and non-human primates. Future work on the bonobos of LuiKotale may shed light on the social and ecological conditions that encourage their monkey-hunting expeditions, yielding insight into the evolutionary significance and causes of aggression, hunting, and meat eating in bonobos, chimpanzees, and ourselves." (Here.)

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