Most human men would be appalled at the idea of their mothers helping them to get laid. But then again, we’re hardly as sexually carefree as bonobos. While these apes live in female-led societies, the males also have a strict pecking order. For those at the bottom, mum’s assistance may be the only thing that allows them to father the next generation.
Martin Surbeck from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology found that bonobo mothers will help to usher their sons into the best spots for meeting females, and they’ll sometimes help their sons in conflicts with other males. Thanks to their help, their sons get more shots at sex than they would otherwise.
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A new study has dealt a blow to the reputation of bonobos as and the most loving and caring of primates. Researchers following the apes through the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo observed 5 instances when the bonobos hunted monkeys, including three successful hunts where the apes began devouring their prey even before it was dead. Says lead researcher Gottfried Hohmann: “Bonobos are merciless…. [T]hey catch it and start eating it. They don’t bother to kill it” [New Scientist].
While bonobos primarily eat fruit, researchers have known for some time that the apes supplement their diet with rodents and small antelopes. This study is the first to include other primates in their food supply, a finding that shows them to be surprisingly similar to chimpanzees, who sometimes hunt monkeys. Bonobos are generally considered more peaceful than their close cousins, the chimps, and have a reputation for free-loving ways because sex plays a major role their society, being used for greetings, conflict resolution and reconciliation [Reuters].