Saturday, 5 January 2013

Bonobos Will Share With Strangers Before Acquaintances


Jan. 2, 2013 — You're standing in line somewhere and you decide to open a pack of gum. Do you share a piece with the coworker standing to one side of you, or with the stranger on the other?

Most humans would choose the person they know first, if they shared at all.

But bonobos, those notoriously frisky, ardently social great apes of the Congo, prefer to share with a stranger before sharing with an animal they know. In fact, a bonobo will invite a stranger to share a snack while leaving an acquaintance watching helplessly from behind a barrier.

"It seems kind of crazy to us, but bonobos prefer to share with strangers," said Brian Hare, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University. "They're trying to extend their social network." And they apparently value that more than maintaining the friendships they already have.

To measure this willingness to share, Hare and graduate student Jingzhi Tan ran a series of experiments with bonobos living in the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. The experiments involved piles of food and enclosures that the test subjects were able to unlock and open. Tan and Hare describe their work in a paper in the Jan. 2, 2013 edition of PLOS ONE.


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