Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'Peter Pan' apes never seem to learn selfishness

02.02.2010
Sharing is a behavior on which day care workers and kindergarten teachers tend to offer young humans a lot of coaching. But for our ape cousins the bonobos, sharing just comes naturally.

In fact, according to a pair of papers in the latest Current Biology, it looks like bonobos never seem to learn how not to share. Chimpanzees, by contrast, are notorious for hogging food to themselves, by physical aggression if necessary. While chimps will share as youngsters, they grow out of it.

In several experiments to measure food-sharing and social inhibition among chimps and bonobos living in African sanctuaries, researchers from Duke and Harvard say these behavioral differences may be rooted in developmental patterns that portray something about the historical lifestyles of these two closely related apes.

When compared with chimps, bonobos seem to be living in "a sort of Peter Pan world," said Brian Hare, an assistant professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, who participated in both studies. "They never grow up, and they share."

Hare and his mentor, Richard Wrangham, the Ruth Moore Professor of Anthropology at Harvard, think this kinder, gentler ape's behavior has been shaped by the relative abundance of their environment. Living south of the Congo River, where food is more plentiful, bonobos don't compete with gorillas for food as chimps have to, and they don't have to compete much with each other either.

In essence, they don't have to grow up, Hare said, and cognitive tests that the team performed on the captive animals seem to bear that out. Bonobos shared like juveniles even after they reached adulthood.

"It seems like some of these adult differences might actually derive from developmental differences," said Harvard graduate student Victoria Wobber, who is the lead author on one of the papers. "Evolution has been acting on the development of their cognition."

To measure sharing behavior, paired animals at the Tchimpounga Sanctuary in the Republic of the Congo were put into an enclosure with some food. Younger chimps were found to be quite similar to young bonobos in their willingness to share food, but the chimps become less willing to share when they're older.

In a second set of sharing experiments, Hare and a colleague at the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary near Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo gave bonobos an opportunity to have all of a food pile to themselves while a fellow bonobo watched helplessly from behind a gate. Instead, the subjects universally preferred to open the gate and let their friends share. Their friends weren't even begging or carrying on. (See YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRDc4SCaFLQ )

"A chimp would never voluntarily do that," Hare said. "Chimps will do things to help one another, but the one thing they will not do is share food."

In a series of tests on how socially savvy the apes were about asking others for handouts, the chimps were quick studies, but the bonobos never quite got the hang of it. In chimp society, where hogging the food pile is a privilege of rank, younger animals have to learn which adults can be begged from and which cannot, Wobber said.

In one test of social skills, Wobber had two humans hold treats concealed in their hands, while a third human was empty-handed. The animals were encouraged to ask for a treat by touching the hands. The chimps quickly picked up on the pattern and didn't bother begging from the empty-handed person. The bonobos were less discriminating and tried the empty hand just as much as the full ones.

A second social experiment used two people, one with a treat and one without. After the apes had it figured out, the treats were moved to the other human. The chimps caught on to the new pattern much more quickly than the bonobos.

These experiments don't mean the bonobos are less smart, Wobber said. It's just that they're less attuned to the social inhibitions a chimp would need to successfully share food without being slapped on the head.

The findings fit into a larger picture that Hare and Wrangham have been building in which animals that have been domesticated, such as pet dogs and arctic foxes in a long-term experiment in Siberia, possess what could be considered juvenile physical traits and behaviors, even after they've reached sexual maturity. It's an example, they say, of selection acting against aggression. Their behaviors are more juvenile, and so too are their physical features.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the European Research Council.

Current Biology:
Bonobos Exhibit Delayed Development of Social Behavior and Cognition Relative to Chimpanzees.
http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822%2809%2902141-1
Current Biology:
Bonobos voluntarily share their own food with others.
http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822%2809%2902141-1

Karl Leif Bates | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.duke.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>