October 21, 2008
Sexual Bonobos Kill Other Primates

The 1960s dream of "make love, not war" does not work for Bonobos. Even though bonobo societies are characterized by promiscuity and a lack of male dominance the males still hunt and kill other primate species.

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.

Competition among primates is unavoidable since resources are limited. Short of genetic engineering I doubt that will change. Even without male dominance in bonobo societies they still go killing other primates.

"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.

The 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.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 October 21 08:54 PM  Evolution Primates

niko said at October 21, 2008 11:21 PM:

Does that mean in this feminist society men are going to get their kicks by killing other men (from other cultures) rather than dominating the family circle?

Bob Badour said at October 22, 2008 10:29 AM:

I am not sure what society you mean by "this feminist society".

If you mean white left-liberal affluent society, it means unattractive or awkward men simply won't make passes at the women they meet for fear of sexual harassment accusations. It means the very attractive men will choose to remain single and play the field a lot longer. (Thinking Scott Baio here.) As a result, fecundity will drop precipitously ensuring this society eventually goes the way of the Shakers.

If you mean black fatherless society, the men mostly get their kicks by killing each other within their own culture.

The rest of society is still patriarchal.

JimG said at October 23, 2008 10:27 PM:

It's interesting to note that what the article further says (access through the link above) is that the females take an active role in the hunt. At least with the Bonobo culture they take some responsibility for the dirty work instead of leaving it all to the men (like the chimps and humans). This piece of information also throws out the "peaceful matriarchal" fantasy that many feminists have. It will be interesting to see what spin this is given. We will possibly see that when females hunt, it is for the sake of the survival of the unit but when males do it, it's because of our inbred "blood lust". Sort of the Bonobo version of how the media talks about female suicide bombers!

submandave said at October 24, 2008 8:16 AM:

niko/Bob: The "feminist society" you speak of is distinctly different from the Bonobo's. Personally, I don't know if i'd mind letting women run and dominate society if it meant I could have greeting sex with any hot female I met.

Lew Wickes said at October 24, 2008 9:31 AM:

The tone above seems to be that it is somehow wicked that bonobos "still go killing other primates", and that "these behaviors still persist" even though the social status of female bonobos is higher than that of male bonobos. Was there an expectation that a rise in the status of females should bring about a moral prohibition against eating other species in the phylogentic order of primates? I doubt bonobos give much thought to social status, or that they recognize a category called "primates", or that they could conceive that it is somehow "wrong" for bonomos to make a meal of other members of the same phylogenetic order. They get hungry. They eat. Similarly, I doubt that the indigenous peoples of the Amazon make these distinctions either. They too "still go killing other primates", and "these behaviors still persist" regardless of the status of females in those societies. They get hungry. They eat. When they've eaten up all the other representatives of their phylogetic order in the neighborhood they move on to look for more.

Girl Monkey said at November 16, 2008 9:37 AM:

First, I agree with Lew. These animals are operating out of instinct and basic needs. They have no concept of the words "feminist," "matriarchal" or for that matter, "hot female." That's just human silliness (and immaturity based on the last term). Oh what we do with our brain power! "Feminist," of course, has negative connotations especially for men. Humans have had so-called matriarchal societies in the past but in reality, they were societies with shared power. Women were respected, consulted and included in everything. Look at the many indigenous communities of the past. There were specific divisions of labor within the community but no sense that one sex was inferior to another. Child-rearing and other so-called "female" activities were elevated, as it should be, because the nurturing, training and educating of children was (and is) what perpetuated the group (and the species). Women were most definitely hunters in many communities and why not? Patriarchy is actually detrimental to the survival of the human species. Shared power is nothing to worry about boys!

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