Natures wonders: female bonobos rule (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, September 13, 2016, 13:05 (1073 days ago) @ David Turell

The ladies run the show among bonobos, in a highly sexual society. They are as closely related to us as are the chimps, where males have ruled, but their society is very different:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/science/bonobos-apes-matriarchy.html?emc=edit_th_2016...


"Describing results from their long-term field work in the September issue of Animal Behaviour, Dr. Tokuyama and her colleague Takeshi Furuichi reported that the female bonobos of Wamba often banded together to fend off male aggression, and in patterns that defied the standard primate rule book.

"Adult females responded to a broad range of male provocations — unwanted sexual overtures, food disputes, pushing, kicking, vocal threats, persistent pestiness — by forming coalitions of two or more females, who would then jointly take on their male tormentors.

"Remarkably, the female partners in a bonobo posse cooperated with one another despite lacking any ties of blood or even close friendship. As the so-called dispersing sex, female bonobos must leave their birthplaces before puberty and find another social set to join, which means that none of the adult females in a given bonobo community are kin.

"Moreover, female bonobos rarely formed coalitions with their preferred girlfriends — the individuals they spent the most time with and groomed the most ardently. Instead, the researchers found, coalitions arose when a senior female would step in and take the side of a younger peer caught up in an escalating conflict with a resident male.

"By delivering the formidable luster of her social standing, as well as an extra pair of hands, the intervening senior pretty much guaranteed that the skirmish would break her way.

"The new results add depth and complexity to our emerging understanding of Pan paniscus, the enigmatic, lithe great ape with the dark licorice eyes, who lives only in the Democratic Republic of Congo and is seriously endangered. The bonobo is a sister species to the more widespread common chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, and the two share equal footing as our nearest primate kin.

"Yet the apes have followed distinctly different behavioral paths. Chimpanzee society is male-dominated and features strong bonds between adult males and feeble ties between females.

"In the bonobo world, by contrast, female camaraderie prevails, while the bonds between males are weak. “It's a matriarchy,” said Amy Parish, a primatologist at the University of Southern California. “Females are running the show.”

***

"Bonobos are famed for their hypersexuality and the way they use sex as an all-purpose problem solver in every possible situation, permutation and combination. When bonobos come upon a great patch of fruit, for example, and tensions rise over feeding priority, the bonobos will decompress with a quick round of genito-genital rubbing and similar acts: males with females, males with males, females with females, juveniles with adults.

***

"Bonobos tongue-kiss, practice oral sex, have intercourse face-to-face, and make sex toys. Frances White, a biological anthropologist at the University of Oregon, once watched a female bonobo turn a stick into a kind of knobby “French tickler,” with which she then stimulated herself. “They're not always family friendly,” Dr. White said.

"Such erotic antics have earned bonobos a reputation as laid-back “hippie apes,” a label that researchers say belies the primate's strategic intelligence and capacity for brutality. Dr. Parish, who studies bonobos in captivity, has seen the young offspring of dominant females flaunt their inherited power by marching over to lesser-ranking female adults, prying their jaws open and extracting the food from their mouths

***

"Nevertheless, bonobos are far less violent than chimpanzees, and female bonobos clearly benefit from life in a constructed sisterhood. Female chimpanzees cannot pick and choose a partner from among the available males, but must mate with all of them. Female bonobos can reject suitors without fearing for their lives. Infanticide is common among chimpanzees, but unheard-of among bonobos.

***

"Male chimpanzees remain in their natal home, so their male-male bonds are built on the standard evolutionary principle of kin selection. Female chimpanzees end up surrounded by nonrelatives in adulthood, so they mind their own business.

***

"Differing ecological conditions may have helped set the stage for the behavioral divergence. By this hypothesis, bonobos evolved in a region with a comparatively abundant and reliable food source, which meant that females could forage in view of one another without coming to blows.

***

"Chimpanzees evolved in drier climates, where food was scarce and foraging females had to compete with one another for limited goods. Who has time for friends?

***

"As for male bonobos, they may be subordinate themselves to females in cliques, and they may have no interest in hanging out with the guys. But they have a secret social weapon: their mothers. Male bonobos stay with their mothers for life, and as her status grows with age, so does his.

Comment: The difference in environment may be the key to the difference in bonobo and chimp. What humans don't realize is male sex drive really gives the females the ultimate power.


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