Videos in lecture and sections have illustrated social organization of common chimpanzees... food competition is such that chimp females tend to have separate core areas, forcing males to patrol large communal territory cooperatively in order to monitor and protect females and infants from outside males. (An example of inclusive fitness... if they have to cooperate, males would rather cooperate with kin.). Males stay in natal group, females often transfer out. Grooming and sharing meat are important social currencies, to achieve status and reduce social tensions.
Bonobos, on the other hand, have less feeding competition (they don't share habitat with any other ape, and can thus feed on more abundant THV, in addition to fruits, etc), and normally form larger, more stable, social groups with more social affiliative behavior among females. Males stay in natal group and females often transfer out, but males do not cooperate like common chimps. Females can often attain dominant social status in group (males inherit status from mothers). In addition to grooming and some food sharing of both game and large fruits, bonobos use casual sex to reduce social tensions. This is possible, in part, because females are continuously sexually receptive (a trait they share with humans), but such social sexual performances are not limited to adults of opposite sex.
How can we assess chimp intelligence?
Do chimps have language? That's the wrong question -- what do chimps want to say? We have never taught them the words for "lust" or "grovel" or "dominant" ! We need to worry less about whether they can learn to communicate in a human way, and worry more about how they communicate and struggle psychologically in their own world/natural habitat.
Unfortunately, chimp habitats are rapidly disappearing... they are an official "endangered species" and it is important for those of us interested in what chimpanzees can teach us about humanity to figure out ways of conserving their populations in the wild and treating them more "humanely" in the labs.
Jane Goodall at Gombe National Park, Tanzania:
WWW Primate Links:
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