Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Bonobos‘ unusual success story

Dominant males invest in friendly relationships with females

Mate competition by males over females is common in many animal species. During mating season male testosterone levels rise, resulting in an increase in aggressive behavior and masculine features.

Bonobos grooming each other in Lui Kotale, Salonga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. © Caroline Deimel/Lui Kotale Bonobo Project

Male bonobos, however, invest much more into friendly relationships with females. Elevated testosterone and aggression levels would collide with this increased tendency towards forming pair-relationships.

Bonobos are among the closest living relatives of humans. Like other great apes they live in groups made up of several males and females. Contrary to other ape species however, male bonobos do not, in general, outrank female individuals and do not dominate them in mating contexts.

This constellation suggests that the selection for typically masculine behavioral patterns like aggression, dominance and intrasexual competition are met with antagonistic forces: On one hand it is advantageous if a male outcompetes a fellow male.

This, however, implies that there is increased aggression and an elevated level of testosterone in high-ranking males. On the other hand – as dominance relations between the sexes are rather balanced in bonobos – it is likely that males benefit from having friendly pair-relationships with female individuals.

Studies with birds and rodents show that a tendency towards forming pair-relationships correlates with lower male aggression rates and testosterone levels.

In a current study, Martin Surbeck, Gottfried Hohmann, Tobias Deschner and colleagues of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, found that in wild bonobos high-ranking males were more aggressive and their mating success was higher when compared to lower-ranking males.

Contrary to other species in which males compete fiercely over access to females, there was no correlation between dominance status or aggression with testosterone levels. In addition, the researchers found that high-ranking males invested more often than lower-ranking group members into friendly relationships with females. This suggests that these friendly relationships between the sexes are associated with lower male testosterone levels.

“Our study suggests that in bonobos – as in in humans – intersexual friendships result in hormonal patterns that we know from species in which male individuals are actively participating in raising their young and in which the two sexes enter lasting pair-relationships“, says Martin Surbeck.


Dr. Tobias Deschner
Dept. of Primatology
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 3550-207
Sandra Jacob
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 3550-122
Fax: +49 341 3550-119
Publication reference
Martin Surbeck, Tobias Deschner, Grit Schubert, Anja Weltring, Gottfried Hohmann
Mate competition, testosterone and intersexual relationships in bonobos (Pan paniscus)

Animal Behavior, January 9, 2011

Dr. Tobias Deschner | Max-Planck-Institute
Further information:

Further reports about: Bonobos anthropology evolutionary history testosterone levels

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>