The importance of cultural processes to behavioural diversity in our closest living relatives is central to revealing the evolutionary origins of human culture. However, the bonobo is often overlooked as a candidate model. Further, a prominent critique to many examples of proposed animal cultures is premature exclusion of environmental confounds known to shape behavioural phenotypes. We addressed these gaps by investigating variation in prey preference between neighbouring bonobo groups that associate and overlap space use. We find group preference for duiker or anomalure hunting otherwise unexplained by variation in spatial usage, seasonality, or hunting party size, composition, and cohesion. Our findings demonstrate that group-specific behaviours emerge independently of the local ecology, indicating that hunting techniques in bonobos may be culturally transmitted. The tolerant intergroup relations of bonobos offer an ideal context to explore drivers of behavioural phenotypes, the essential investigations for phylogenetic constructs of the evolutionary origins of culture.
Several theories have been generated to understand the socio-cognitive mechanisms underlying the unique cooperative abilities of humans. The ‘interdependence hypothesis' posits first, that the cognitive dimension of human cooperation evolved in contexts when several individuals needed to act together to achieve a common goal, like when hunting large prey. Second, the more interdependent individuals are, the more likely they are to provide services to conspecifics in other contexts. Alternatively, the ‘social tolerance hypothesis' proposes that higher social tolerance allows conspecifics to cooperate more efficiently and with a wider range of partners. We conducted the first field experimental evaluation of both hypotheses in our closest living relatives by contrasting chimpanzees to the less interdependent but more tolerant bonobos. We compared each species' performance during a cooperative task: informing conspecifics about a danger. We presented Gaboon viper models to 82 individuals from five wild communities. Chimpanzees arriving late at the snake were significantly more likely to have heard a call and less likely to startle, indicating that chimpanzees were better informed about the presence of the threat than bonobos. This stems from clear species differences in how individuals adjusted their calling decisions to the level of information already available. Chimpanzees were more likely to call and produced more alarm calls when they had not yet heard a call, whereas bonobos did so when they already heard a call. Our results confirm the link between interdependence and cooperation performance. These species differences were most likely driven by differences in motivation rather than in cognitive capacities because both species tended to consider audience knowledge in their decision to call. Our results inform theories on the evolution of human cooperation by linking inter-group competition pressure and in-group cooperative motivation and/or capability.
Abstract Despite their ubiquity, in most cases little is known about the impact of eukaryotic parasites on their mammalian hosts. Comparative approaches provide a powerful method to investigate the impact of parasites on host ecology and evolution, though two issues are critical for such efforts: controlling for variation in methods of identifying parasites and incorporating heterogeneity in sampling effort across host species. To address these issues, there is a need for standardized methods to catalogue eukaryotic parasite diversity across broad phylogenetic host ranges. We demonstrate the feasibility of a metabarcoding approach for describing parasite communities by analysing faecal samples from 11 nonhuman primate species representing divergent lineages of the primate phylogeny and the full range of sampling effort (i.e. from no parasites reported in the literature to the best-studied primates). We detected a number of parasite families and regardless of prior sampling effort, metabarcoding of only ten faecal samples identified parasite families previously undescribed in each host (x̅ = 8.5 new families per species). We found more overlap between parasite families detected with metabarcoding and published literature when more research effort—measured as the number of publications—had been conducted on the host species' parasites. More closely related primates and those from the same continent had more similar parasite communities, highlighting the biological relevance of sampling even a small number of hosts. Collectively, results demonstrate that metabarcoding methods are sensitive and powerful enough to standardize studies of eukaryotic parasite communities across host species, providing essential new tools for macroecological studies of parasitism.
In social-living animals, interactions between groups are frequently agonistic, but they can also be tolerant and even cooperative. Intergroup tolerance and cooperation are regarded as a crucial step in the formation of highly structured multilevel societies. Behavioral ecological theory suggests that intergroup tolerance and cooperation can emerge either when the costs of hostility outweigh the benefits of exclusive resource access or when both groups gain fitness benefits through their interactions. However, the factors promoting intergroup tolerance are still unclear due to the paucity of data on intergroup interactions in tolerant species. Here, we examine how social and ecological factors affect the onset and termination of intercommunity encounters in two neighboring communities of wild bonobos, a species exhibiting flexible patterns of intergroup interactions, at Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve, Democratic Republic of the Congo. We recorded the timing and location of intercommunity encounters and measured fruit abundance and distribution, groups’ social characteristics, and space-use dynamics over a 19-month period. We found that intercommunity tolerance was facilitated by a decrease in feeding competition, with high fruit abundance increasing the likelihood of communities to encounter, and high clumpiness of fruit patches increasing the probability to terminate encounters likely due to increased contest. In addition, the possibility for extra-community mating, as well as the potential benefits of more efficient foraging in less familiar areas, reduced the probability that the communities terminated encounters. By investigating the factors involved in shaping relationships across groups, this study contributes to our understanding of how animal sociality can extend beyond the group level.
In some species habitual same-sex sexual behavior co-occurs with high levels of intra-sexual alliance formation, suggesting that these behaviors may be linked. We tested for such a link by comparing behavioral and physiological outcomes of sex with unrelated same- and opposite-sex partners in female bonobos (Pan paniscus). We analyzed behavioral outcomes following 971 sexual events involving n = 19 female and n = 8 male adult and sub-adult members of a wild, habituated bonobo community. We additionally collected n = 143 urine samples before and after sexual interactions to non-invasively measure oxytocin (OT), which modulates female sexual behavior and facilitates cooperation in other species. The majority of sexual events (65%) consisted of female same-sex genito-genital rubbing (or GG-rubbing). Female dyads engaged in significantly more sexual interactions than did inter-sexual dyads …
Ammie K. Kalan, Gottfried Hohmann, Mimi Arandjelovic, Christophe Boesch, Maureen S. McCarthy, Anthony Agbor, Samuel Angedakin, Emma Bailey, Cosma Wilungula Balongelwa, Mattia Bessone, Gaëlle Bocksberger, Sally Jewel Coxe, Tobias Deschner, Marie-Lyne Després-Einspenner, Paula Dieguez, Barbara Fruth, Ilka Herbinger, Anne-Céline Granjon, Josephine Head, Yves Aka Kablan, Kevin E. Langergraber, Albert Lotana Lokasola, Giovanna Maretti, Sergio Marrocoli, Menard Mbende, Jennifer Moustgaard, Paul Kouame N’Goran, Martha M. Robbins, Joost van Schijndel, Volker Sommer, Martin Surbeck, Nikki Tagg, Jacob Willie, Roman M. Wittig, and Hjalmar S. Kühl. 2019. “Novelty Response of Wild African Apes to Camera Traps.” Current Biology, 29, 7, Pp. 1211 - 1217.e3. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Summary Temperament and personality research in humans and nonhuman animals measures behavioral variation in individual, population, or species-specific traits with implications for survival and fitness, such as social status, foraging, and mating success [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Curiosity and risk-taking tendencies have been studied extensively across taxa by measuring boldness and exploration responses to experimental novelty exposure [3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15]. Here, we conduct a natural field experiment using wildlife monitoring technology to test variation in the reaction of wild great apes (43 groups of naive chimpanzees, bonobos, and western gorillas across 14 field sites in Africa) to a novel object, the camera trap. Bonobo and gorilla groups demonstrated a stronger looking impulse toward the camera trap device compared to chimpanzees, suggesting higher visual attention and curiosity. Bonobos were also more likely to show alarm and other fearful behaviors, although such neophobic (and conversely, neophilic) responses were generally rare. Among all three species, individuals looked at cameras longer when they were young, were associating with fewer individuals, and did not live near a long-term research site. Overall, these findings partially validate results from great ape novelty paradigms in captivity [7, 8]. We further suggest that species-typical leadership styles  and social and environmental effects, including familiarity with humans, best explain novelty responses of wild great apes. In sum, this study illustrates the feasibility of large-scale field experiments and the importance of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors in shaping animal curiosity. Video Abstract
Coalitions among males during within group conflicts have a strong influence on the competitive and social environment within social groups. To evaluate possible variation in the occurrence of such coalitions in our closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, we compared male aggression and coalitionary behavior in two natural communities, one of each species, with a similar size and composition. Furthermore we compared affiliative behavior that might be related to coalition formation among males. We found higher frequencies of aggression and a greater likelihood to form coalitions during within-group conflicts among wild male chimpanzees at Taï compared to wild male bonobos at LuiKotale. The species differed in the predominant sex of the male coalition partners, with male bonobos forming coalitions more often with females, while male chimpanzees formed coalitions more often with other males. Compared to male bonobos, male chimpanzees showed higher rates of grooming and tended to reconcile more conflicts with other males. Overall our results showed lower frequencies of reconciliation among bonobos than those described in captivity and at artificial feeding sites. These findings add to the evidence that male cooperation and conflict resolution are potentially very different in bonobos and chimpanzees, despite the fact that these two species are closely related, live in multi-male, multi-female communities with a high degree of fission-fusion dynamics and have female-biased migration patterns. Given the correlation between aggressive, cooperative and some affiliative patterns within the species in our study, we hypothesize that the fitness benefits of male relationships are greater in chimpanzees compared to bonobos.
Summary The two closest living relatives of humans, bonobos (Pan paniscus) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), share many traits that are common in humans but rare in other mammals, including societies with high fission–fusion dynamics, male philopatry, female dispersal and extensive social bonding among unrelated individuals . The major difference between these two species is that male aggression is more frequent and intense in male-dominated chimpanzees than in bonobos, where the highest-ranking individuals are female . One potential explanation is that because periods of female sexual receptivity and attractiveness are more extended in bonobos , males compete less intensely for each mating opportunity. This would reduce the strength of selection for traits that lead to success in direct contest competition between males and in sexual coercion of females, thus increasing the potential for female choice . Accordingly, it has been predicted that the influence of male dominance rank on reproductive success and the extent of male reproductive skew should be lower in bonobos than in chimpanzees . Although relevant for understanding the evolution of the unusual levels of egalitarianism and cooperation found in human hunter-gatherers , comparative analyses in the genus Pan have been limited by the scanty paternity data available for wild bonobos . Here, we show using the largest sample of paternity data available that, contrary to expectation, male bonobos have a higher reproductive skew and a stronger relationship between dominance rank and reproductive success than chimpanzees.
In several group-living species, individuals' social preferences are thought to be influenced by cooperation. For some societies with fission–fusion dynamics, sex-specific association patterns reflect sex differences in cooperation in within- and between-group contexts. In our study, we investigated this hypothesis further by comparing sex-specific association patterns in two closely related species, chimpanzees and bonobos, which differ in the level of between-group competition and in the degree to which sex and kinship influence dyadic cooperation. Here, we used long-term party composition data collected on five chimpanzee and two bonobo communities and assessed, for each individual of 10 years and older, the sex of its top associate and of all conspecifics with whom it associated more frequently than expected by chance. We found clear species differences in association patterns. While in all chimpanzee communities males and females associated more with same-sex partners, in bonobos males and females tended to associate preferentially with females, but the female association preference for other females is lower than in chimpanzees. Our results also show that, for bonobos (but not for chimpanzees), association patterns were predominantly driven by mother–offspring relationships. These species differences in association patterns reflect the high levels of male–male cooperation in chimpanzees and of mother–son cooperation in bonobos. Finally, female chimpanzees showed intense association with a few other females, and male chimpanzees showed more uniform association across males. In bonobos, the most differentiated associations were from males towards females. Chimpanzee male association patterns mirror fundamental human male social traits and, as in humans, may have evolved as a response to strong between-group competition. The lack of such a pattern in a closely related species with a lower degree of between-group competition further supports this notion.
Abstract Objectives Female bonobos (Pan paniscus) are characterized as highly affiliative and cooperative, but few studies have quantified the strength and stability of female intra-sexual relationships or explored how variation in social relationships influences cooperation. We measure female social preferences, identify causes of variation in preferences, and test whether variation in social preferences predicts food sharing or coalitionary support. Methods Data were collected over 3 years from females in the Bompusa community at LuiKotale, DRC. We measured genetic relatedness and constructed social preference indices for party association, proximity, grooming, GG-rubbing and aggression. We identified preferred social partners based on permutation tests and measured stability using Mantel tests. We used factor analysis to identify inter-relationships between preference indices and used LMMs to test whether variation in social preferences was explained by relatedness, rank differences, having dependent young or co-residency time. We used GLMMs to test whether variation in social preferences predicted food sharing or coalitionary support. Results All females had preferred non-kin partners for proximity, grooming or GG-rubbing, but only grooming preferences were stable across years. Association indices were higher among lactating females, and aggression was lower among females with longer co-residency times. The factor analysis identified one factor, representing proximity and GG-rubbing preferences, labeled behavioral coordination. Dyads with higher levels of behavioral coordination were more likely to share food. Conclusions Female bonobos exhibit stable, differentiated grooming relationships outside of kinship and philopatry. Females also exhibit flexible proximity and GG-rubbing preferences that may facilitate cooperation with a wider range of social partners.
Dietary ecology of extant great apes is known to respond to environmental conditions such as climate and food availability, but also to vary depending on social status and life history characteristics. Bonobos (Pan paniscus) live under comparatively steady ecological conditions in the evergreen rainforests of the Congo Basin. Bonobos are an ideal species for investigating influences of sociodemographic and physiological factors, such as female reproductive status, on diet. We investigate the long term dietary pattern in wild but fully habituated bonobos by stable isotope analysis in hair and integrating a variety of long-term sociodemographic information obtained through observations. We analyzed carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in 432 hair sections obtained from 101 non-invasively collected hair samples. These samples represented the dietary behavior of 23 adult bonobos from 2008 through 2010. By including isotope and crude protein data from plants we could establish an isotope baseline and interpret the results of several general linear mixed models using the predictors climate, sex, social rank, reproductive state of females, adult age and age of infants. We found that low canopy foliage is a useful isotopic tracer for tropical rainforest settings, and consumption of terrestrial herbs best explains the temporal isotope patterns we found in carbon isotope values of bonobo hair. Only the diet of male bonobos was affected by social rank, with lower nitrogen isotope values in low-ranking young males. Female isotope values mainly differed between different stages of reproduction (cycling, pregnancy, lactation). These isotopic differences appear to be related to changes in dietary preference during pregnancy (high protein diet) and lactation (high energy diet), which allow to compensate for different nutritional needs during maternal investment.
The emotional mediation hypothesis proposes a mediating role of social bonds in the exchange of services. This model predicts that the form of short-term exchange of services depends on the relationship between the individuals involved. Here, we test this prediction in the exchange of grooming among males in a wild bonobo community for which close relatedness could be excluded. As bonobo males hardly engage in food sharing or agonistic support, grooming is mainly exchanged for grooming. While overall grooming, both given and received, correlates across dyads and within sessions, the form of grooming exchange within a given session differs according to dyadic association preferences. Individuals with a higher tendency to associate, ergo more familiar individuals, exhibit larger time differences and reduced reciprocation in consecutive grooming bouts than less familiar individuals. These results support the idea that emotional components are involved in the exchange of services between unrelated individuals.
Within- and between-species variation in male mating strategies has been attributed to a multitude of factors including male competitive ability and the distribution of fertile females across space and time. Differences in energy balance across and within males allow for the identification of some of the trade-offs associated with certain social and mating strategies. Bonobos live in groups with a high degree of fission–fusion dynamics, there is co-dominance between the sexes and a linear dominance hierarchy among males. Males compete over access to females, breeding is aseasonal, and females exhibit sexual swellings over extended time periods. In this study we use urinary C-peptide (UCP) levels in male bonobos (Pan paniscus) obtained from 260 urine samples from a wild bonobo community, to quantify male energy balance during mate competition and levels of gregariousness in the species. Although high ranking males are more aggressive, spend more time in proximity to maximally tumescent females, and have higher mating frequencies, we found no indication that mate guarding or mate competition affected male energy balance. Our results showed a positive correlation between monthly mean UCP levels and mean party size. When traveling in large parties, high ranking males had higher UCP levels than those of the low ranking males. These results support the hypothesis that patterns of fission–fusion dynamics in bonobos are either linked to energy availability in the environment or to the energetic costs of foraging. The finding of a rank-bias in UCP levels in larger parties could also reflect an increase in contest competition among males over access to food.
In long–lived social mammals such as primates, individuals can benefit from social bonds with close kin, including their mothers. In the patrilocal chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes spp.) and bonobo (Pan paniscus), sexually mature males reside and reproduce in their natal groups and can retain post-dependency bonds with their mothers, while immatures of both sexes might also have their paternal grandmothers available. However, quantitative information on the proportion of males and immatures that co-reside with both types of these close female relatives is limited for both species. Combining genetic parentage determination and group composition data from five communities of wild chimpanzees and three communities of wild bonobos, we estimated the frequency of co-residence between (1) mature males and their mothers, and (2) immature males and females and their paternal grandmothers. We found that adult males resided twice as frequently with their mothers in bonobos than in chimpanzees, and that immature bonobos were three times more likely to possess a living paternal grandmother than were immature chimpanzees. Patterns of female and male survivorship from studbook records of captive individuals of both species suggest that mature bonobo females survive longer than their chimpanzee counterparts, possibly contributing to the differences observed in mother–son and grandmother–immature co-residency levels. Taking into account reports of bonobo mothers supporting their sons' mating efforts and females sharing food with immatures other than their own offspring, our findings suggest that life history traits may facilitate maternal and grandmaternal support more in bonobos than in chimpanzees.
Dominance relationships between females and males are characteristic traits of species and are usually associated with sexual dimorphism. Exploring the social and contextual circumstances in which females win conflicts against males allows one to study the conditions triggering shifting power asymmetries between the sexes. This study investigates dominance relationships in bonobos (Pan paniscus), a species in which females are thought to display social dominance despite male-biased sexual dimorphism. To identify dominance relationships among females and males, we first explored how intrasexual dominance status affects the outcome of intersexual conflicts. Second, by incorporating social and behavioral information about the context of intersexual conflicts, we tested to which extent different components of power are relevant to the observed asymmetries in the relationships. Post-hoc analyses indicate a sex-independent dominance hierarchy with several females occupying the top ranks. Our results also reveal that two factors—female leverage and motivation to help offspring—had a significant influence on the outcome of intersexual conflicts. The results of our study do not indicate an overall reduction in male aggression against females but do show lower levels of male aggression in the mating context, and an absence of male aggression toward those females displaying visual signs of elevated fecundity. This indicates that both female sexuality and male mating strategies are involved in the shifting dominance relationships between the sexes.
Seed dispersal mode of plants and primary interactions with animals are studied in the evergreen Afrotropical forest of LuiKotale, at the south-western part of Salonga National Park (DR Congo). We first analysed seed dispersal strategies for (a) the plant species inventoried over a decade at the study site and (b) the tree community in 12 × 1 ha census plots. Our analyses of dispersal syndromes for 735 identified plant species show that 85 % produce fleshy fruits and rely on animals for primary seed dispersal. Trees depending on animals for primary dispersal dominate the tree community (95 %), while wind-dispersed and autochorous trees are rare in mixed tropical forests. A list of frugivorous vertebrate species of the ecosystem was established. Among the fruit-eating vertebrate species identified in the ecosystem, forest elephants and bonobos are threatened with extinction (IUCN, The IUCN red list of threatened species, 2012). Although most of the species listed previously are internationally and regionally protected, all the species we observed dispersing seeds are hunted, fished or trapped by humans in the area. With the exception of bush pigs, seed predators, mainly small-sized animals, are generally not targeted by hunters. As a consequence, we expect human pressure on key animal species to impact the plant community. We suggest defaunation to be considered as major conservation problem. Thus, not only for the sake of animal species but also for that of plant species conservation, anti-poaching measures should have priority in both “protected” and unprotected areas. Defaunation could bring a new impoverished era for plants in tropical forests.