strange behaviors

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Posts Tagged ‘emotional behavior’

Strange (and Sweet) Primate Behaviors

Posted by Richard Conniff on October 22, 2013

A bonobo consoles a distraught pal (Photo: Clay & DeWaal)

A bonobo consoles a distraught pal (Photo: Clay & DeWaal)

One of the persistent myths about the natural world is that animals live in a constant state of aggression, confrontation, and even open combat.  But even relatively brutal chimpanzees spend only about five percent of their day in aggressive encounters–and 20 percent grooming social allies.

The truth is that the social and emotional lives of other primates are in many ways a lot like our own, and two new studies add to the growing evidence.  In the first, published in Evolution and Human Behavior, the researchers found that chimpanzees, like humans, typically form friendships with individuals who have similar personalities. Researchers Jorg J. M. Massen and Sonja E. Koski spent hundreds of hours observing chimpanzee troops at two European zoos, paying particular attention to individuals who liked to sit together.  These friends turned out to be similar in sociability based on how much time they spent grooming, and whether they liked to hang out in a crowd, or off on the periphery.  They also resembled each other in boldness—that is, the willingness to mob an apparent threat, like an artificial snake.

That suggests why friendships may matter as much to chimps as to humans: They make it more likely that individuals will find a mate, reproduce, keep the kids alive, and stay well themselves.  Friends also support each other in conflicts.  For chimps, as for humans, having friends is natural and necessary. These are social creatures, never meant to live in isolation.

The other study, just out in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looks at the emotional lives of bonobos, a separate chimp species thought to be even more closely related to humans. Researchers from Emory University studied bonobos rescued from the bushmeat and pet trades, at a forested sanctuary on the outskirts of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The emotional life of non-human primates is “still rather a taboo subject in animal behavior,” co-author Zanna Clay told TakePart, in an email.  Old School researchers suspect it as a form of Read the rest of this entry »

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