Study busts bonobos' easy going reputation

Oct. 15, 2008 at 1:39 PM
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LEIPZIG, Germany, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- German scientists say they have discovered the first direct evidence of wild bonobos hunting and eating the young of other primates.

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology said while chimpanzee males frequently hunt and kill monkeys, the more peaceful bonobos had been believed to restrict what meat they ate to forest antelopes, squirrels and rodents. The new study contradicts that theory.

"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," Max Planck researcher Gottfried Hohmann said. "Our observations suggest that, in contrast to previous assumptions, these behaviors (physical violence, hunting and meat consumption) may persist in societies with different social relations."

Overall, the findings challenge the theory that male dominance and aggression must be causally linked with hunting behavior. The researchers said future studies on the bonobos might yield insight into the evolutionary significance and causes of aggression, hunting, and meat eating in bonobos, chimpanzees -- and humans.

The study appears in the journal Current Biology.

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