Stories tagged chimpanzee

May
16
2010

Bonobo: Latin name:  Pan paniscus
Bonobo: Latin name: Pan paniscusCourtesy bradypus courtesy of wikimedia.org
The famous Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology recently released a new study showing bonobos (Pan paniscus), a species of chimpanzee, communicating their disapproval by shaking their heads side-to-side as if to say NO. This may seem rather simple and uneventful, but until now, there has been no observed behavior in chimps or bonobos that indicates a negative context. Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos are known to use other head gestures like bowing and shaking up and down to communicate with group members, but the side-to-side NO gesture is actually considered quite sophisticated and ingrained in human culture. This simple gesture is recognizable in most, but not all cultures.

I recently finished up a semester teaching Evolution and many of my students commented on how interesting they found our ape relative the bonobo. Many had never heard of them and were surprised at how similar they were to humans in behaviors and social structures. We frequently here about how closely related we are to the chimpanzee biologically, but culturally, the bonobo's social structure is actually more human-like than that of our chimp cousin. The bonobos have extremely egalitarian and cooperative societies with a rather unusual “loving” way of diffusing social tensions (suffice to say there is a reason why bonobos are not found in most American zoos!) This new study brings us a little closer to our ape cousins and maybe we can learn a few lessons from them in these times of conflict. Unfortunately, these gentle creatures are endangered and need our help. Check out this website for more on Bonobo Conservation.

Nov
26
2006

Looking for love: According to new research, male chimps prefer older females over young females when they're looking for a partner to mate with. That's actually not so surprising, as in many other mammal species females reach their peak in fertility at middle age.
Looking for love: According to new research, male chimps prefer older females over young females when they're looking for a partner to mate with. That's actually not so surprising, as in many other mammal species females reach their peak in fertility at middle age.

Remember that TV show from a few years ago - Are You Hot?

Well, in the world of chimpanzees, who's hot isn't the same as what most human males classify as hot.

The latest issue of Current Biology includes research findings that most male chimps find the older females of their species more attractive for mating than younger female chimps.

"Although it's easy to imagine that male chimps would like to mate with whatever female is available, it turns out they really have strong preferences" for the older females, says anthropologist Martin Muller of Boston University, the lead author of the study. "We've seen them just ignoring younger females who are all over them."

The findings are based on eight years of watching chimps in Uganda. Chimp males are not too subtle in their courting rituals, so researchers clearly knew what was going on when they were selecting their mates. In the majority of cases, they'd prefer an older female over a younger female if they had a choice among who to mate with.

Why to they have such different tastes than their male counterparts of the human species?

One big difference is that female chimps never go through menopause, which could lead male chimps to consider them to be more experienced mothers and better caregivers for their offspring. And among many mammal species, fertility rates tend to be higher among middle-aged females than younger females.