Observations of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) provide valuable comparative data for understanding the significance of conspecific killing. Two kinds of hypothesis have been proposed. Lethal violence is sometimes concluded to be the result of adaptive strategies, such that killers ultimately gain fitness benefits by increasing their access to resources such as food or mates. Alternatively, it could be a non-adaptive result of human impacts, such as habitat change or food provisioning. To discriminate between these hypotheses we compiled information from 18 chimpanzee communities and 4 bonobo communities studied over five decades. Our data include 152 killings (n = 58 observed, 41 inferred, and 53 suspected killings) by chimpanzees in 15 communities and one suspected killing by bonobos. We found that males were the most frequent attackers (92% of participants) and victims (73%); most killings (66%) involved intercommunity attacks; and attackers greatly outnumbered their victims (median 8:1 ratio). Variation in killing rates was unrelated to measures of human impacts. Our results are compatible with previously proposed adaptive explanations for killing by chimpanzees, whereas the human impact hypothesis is not supported.
The management of captive animals has been improved by the establishment of positive reinforcement training as a tool to facilitate interactions between caretakers and animals. In great apes, positive reinforcement training has also been used to train individuals to participate in simple medical procedures to monitor physical health. One aim of positive reinforcement training is to establish a relaxed atmosphere for situations that, without training, might be very stressful. This is especially true for simple medical procedures that can require animals to engage in behaviours that are unusual or use unfamiliar medical devices that can be upsetting. Therefore, one cannot exclude the possibility that the training itself is a source of stress. In this study, we explored the effects of medical positive reinforcement training on salivary cortisol in two groups of captive ape species, orangutans and bonobos, which were familiar to this procedure. Furthermore, we successfully biologically validated the salivary cortisol assay, which had already been validated for bonobos, for orangutans. For the biological validation, we found that cortisol levels in orangutan saliva collected during baseline conditions were lower than in samples collected during three periods that were potentially stressful for the animals. However, we did not find significant changes in salivary cortisol during medical positive reinforcement training for either bonobos or orangutans. Therefore, for bonobos and orangutans with previous exposure to medical PRT, the procedure is not stressful. Thus, medical PRT provides a helpful tool for the captive management of the two species.
We present information on age related changes of thyroid hormone levels in bonobos (N = 96) and chimpanzees (N = 100) ranging between one and 56 years of age. Fresh urine samples were used for hormone measurements with a commercial competitive total triiodothyronine (T3) ELISA. In both species, immature individuals had higher TT3 levels than adults and there was a marked decrease in TT3 levels between age classes. The two species differed in terms of the timing of TT3 level changes, with chimpanzees experiencing a significant decline in TT3 levels after 10 years of age and bonobos after 20 years of age. The decline of TT3 in chimpanzees appears to coincide with the time when somatic growth terminates while TT3 values in bonobos decrease much later. This temporal asymmetry in urinary thyroid hormone levels indicates heterochrony in the ontogenetic changes of the two sister species and developmental delay in bonobos. The prolongation of high TT3 levels in bonobos, which is characteristic of immatures of both Pan species may affect the behavior of bonobos; namely, the low intensity of aggression they display. Given that developmental studies are often based on post-mortem analyses of skeletons, measures of urinary thyroid hormones offer a non-invasive tool for exploring ontogenetic changes in living wild and captive hominoids.
A positive interaction is any interaction between individuals of the same or different species (mutualism) that provides a benefit to both partners such as increased fitness. Here we focus on seed dispersal mutualism between an animal (bonobo, Pan paniscus) and a plant (velvet tamarind trees, Dialium spp.). In the LuiKotale rainforest southwest of Salonga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo, seven species of the genus Dialium account for 29.3% of all trees. Dialium is thus the dominant genus in this forest. Dialium fruits make up a large proportion of the diet of a habituated bonobo community in this forest. During the 6 months of the fruiting season, more than half of the bonobos feeding time is devoted to Dialium fruits. Furthermore, Dialium fruits contribute a considerable proportion of sugar and protein to bonobos dietary intake, being among the richest fruits for these nutrients. Bonobos in turn ingest fruits with seeds that are disseminated in their feces (endozoochory) at considerable distances (average: 1.25 km after 24 hr of average transit time). Endozoochory through the gut causes loss of the cuticle protection and tegumentary dormancy, as well as an increase in size by water uptake. Thus, after gut passage, seeds are better able to germinate. We consider other primate species as a potential seed disperser and conclude that Dialium germination is dependent on passage through bonobo guts. This plant-animal interaction highlights positive effects between two major organisms of the Congo basin rainforest, and establishes the role of the bonobo as an efficient disperser of Dialium seeds. Periodicals, Inc.
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.
Salivary alpha amylase (sAA) is the most abundant enzyme in saliva. Studies in humans found variation in enzymatic activity of sAA across populations that could be linked to the copy number of loci for salivary amylase (AMY1), which was seen as an adaptive response to the intake of dietary starch. In addition to diet dependent variation, differences in sAA activity have been related to social stress. In a previous study, we found evidence for stress-induced variation in sAA activity in the bonobos, a hominoid primate that is closely related to humans. In this study, we explored patterns of variation in sAA activity in bonobos and three other hominoid primates, chimpanzee, gorilla, and orangutan to (a) examine if within-species differences in sAA activity found in bonobos are characteristic for hominoids and (b) assess the extent of variation in sAA activity between different species. The results revealed species-differences in sAA activity with gorillas and orangutans having higher basal sAA activity when compared to Pan. To assess the impact of stress, sAA values were related to cortisol levels measured in the same saliva samples. Gorillas and orangutans had low salivary cortisol concentrations and the highest cortisol concentration was found in samples from male bonobos, the group that also showed the highest sAA activity. Considering published information, the differences in sAA activity correspond with differences in AMY1 copy numbers and match with general features of natural diet. Studies on sAA activity have the potential to complement molecular studies and may contribute to research on feeding ecology and nutrition.
In primates, age, sex, and social status can strongly influence access to food resources. In Pan, these criteria are assumed to influence access to vertebrate meat. However, the significance of meat in terms of its role in the nutrition of Pan is still debated. Here we present a study using stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios in hair samples from habituated, wild bonobos (Pan paniscus) to explore these issues. Over a period of 5 mo hair samples were collected from fresh bonobo nests at LuiKotale, Democratic Republic of Congo. Hair samples were assigned to known individuals and were of sufficient length to allow the evaluation of isotopic variation over several months. Samples of plant foods and sympatric fauna were also analyzed. The ?(13)C and ?(15)N results of the bonobo hair were remarkably homogeneous over time and for the group as a whole. There are no differences in diet between the sexes. Within the group of males, however, there was a positive correlation between dominance status and ?(15)N. The isotopic data indicate that the contribution of fauna to bonobo diet is marginal and that plant food is the dietary protein source. In only some cases did elevated ?(15)N hair values correlate with observed faunivory and not correspond to the ?(15)N measured in the dominant plant foods. Given the large variation in hunting and meat eating of Pan across the African continent, the detection of seasonal changes in faunivory by elevated ?(15)N values in sectioned ape hair is a promising approach.
Salivary alpha-Amylase (sAA) is a starch digesting enzyme. In addition to its function in the context of nutrition, sAA has also turned out to be useful for monitoring sympathetic nervous system activity. Recent studies on humans have found a relationship between intra-individual changes in sAA activity and physical and psychological stress. In studies on primates and other vertebrates, non-invasive monitoring of short-term stress responses is usually based on measurements of cortisol levels, which are indicative of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal activity. The few studies that have used both cortisol levels and sAA activity indicate that these two markers may respond differently and independently to different types of stress such that variation in the degree of the activation of different stress response systems might reflect alternative coping mechanisms or individual traits. Here, we present the first data on intra- and inter-individual variation of sAA activity in captive bonobos and compare the results with information from other ape species and humans. Our results indicate that sAA activity in the bonobo samples was significantly lower than in the human samples but within the range of other great ape species. In addition, sAA activity was significantly higher in samples collected at times when subjects had been exposed to stressors (judged by changes in behavioral patterns and cortisol levels) than in samples collected at other times. Our results indicate that bonobos possess functioning sAA and, as in other species, sAA activity is influenced by autonomic nervous system activity. Monitoring sAA activity could therefore be a useful tool for evaluating stress in bonobos.
Many group-living species display strong sex biases in dispersal tendencies. However, gene flow mediated by apparently philopatric sex may still occur and potentially alters population structure. In our closest living evolutionary relatives, dispersal of adult males seems to be precluded by high levels of territoriality between males of different groups in chimpanzees, and has only been observed once in bonobos. Still, male-mediated gene flow might occur through rare events such as extra-group matings leading to extra-group paternity (EGP) and female secondary dispersal with offspring, but the extent of this gene flow has not yet been assessed.
Variation in male mating success is often related to rank differences. Males who are unable to monopolize oestrous females alone may engage in coalitions, thus enhancing their mating success. While studies on chimpanzees and dolphins suggest that coalitions are independent of kinship, information from female philopatric species shows the importance of kin support, especially from mothers, on the reproductive success of females. Therefore, one might expect a similar effect on sons in male philopatric species. We evaluate mating success determinants in male bonobos using data from nine male individuals from a wild population. Results reveal a steep, linear male dominance hierarchy and a positive correlation between dominance status and mating success. In addition to rank, the presence of mothers enhances the mating success of sons and reduces the proportion of matings by the highest ranking male. Mothers and sons have high association rates and mothers provide agonistic aid to sons in conflicts with other males. As bonobos are male-philopatric and adult females occupy high dominance status, maternal support extends into adulthood and females have the leverage to intervene in male conflicts. The absence of female support to unrelated males suggests that mothers gain indirect fitness benefits by supporting their sons.
Deciphering the behavioral repertoire of great apes is a challenge for several reasons. First, due to their elusive behavior in dense forest environments, great ape populations are often difficult to observe. Second, members of the genus Pan are known to display a great variety in their behavioral repertoire; thus, observations from one population are not necessarily representative for other populations. For example, bonobos (Pan paniscus) are generally believed to consume almost no vertebrate prey. However, recent observations show that at least some bonobo populations may consume vertebrate prey more commonly than previously believed. We investigated the extent of their meat consumption using PCR amplification of vertebrate mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) segments from DNA extracted from bonobo feces. As a control we also attempted PCR amplifications from gorilla feces, a species assumed to be strictly herbivorous.
We describe the cannibalization of an infant bonobo (circa 2.5 years old) at Lui Kotale, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The infant died of unknown causes and was consumed by several community members including its mother and an older sibling one day after death. Certain features concerning the pattern of consumption fit in with previously observed episodes of cannibalism in Pan, whereas others, such as the mothers participation in consuming the body, are notable. The incident suggests that filial cannibalism among apes need not be the result of nutritional or social stress and does not support the idea that filial cannibalism is a behavioral aberration.
Bonobos are known for their pacifistic behavior and their large repertoire of behaviors that are thought to serve conflict resolution. One is an unusual form of ventro-ventral mounting that facilitates genital contacts (GC). Various hypotheses have been proposed to explain its function. In this study we tested predictions of the tension regulation hypothesis using salivary cortisol as a marker for social stress. The results indicate a temporal relationship between GC and cortisol levels. Compared with baseline data and matched samples of unrestricted food access, rates of GC increased when access to food sources was restricted. Cortisol levels were highest when access to food was constrained. However, because the behavioral and hormonal responses occurred when viewing the stimulus at a distance and preceded the physical presence of the stimulus, we conclude that the anticipation of a competitive situation was sufficient to induce social stress. Contrary to our prediction, targets of aggression did not have higher rates of GC nor did they solicit GC more often than others. Furthermore, higher GC rates did not correlate with a more pronounced decrease in cortisol levels. Not all results obtained in this study supported the predictions concerning the regulatory function of GC on social tension and further research is needed to explore this question. However, the results indicate that the anticipation of competition may be sufficient to induce a costly physiological response, and that high levels of resource competition may have lasting effects on physical stress and stress management.
We present evidence for the consumption of a diurnal, arboreal, group living primate by bonobos. The digit of an immature black mangabey (Lophocebus aterrimus) was found in the fresh feces of a bonobo (Pan paniscus) at the Lui Kotale study site, Democratic Republic of Congo. In close proximity to the fecal sample containing the remains of the digit, we also found a large part of the pelt of a black mangabey. Evidence suggests that the Lui Kotale bonobos consume more meat than other bonobo populations and have greater variation in the mammalian species exploited than previously thought [Hohmann & Fruth, Folia primatologica 79:103-110]. The current finding supports Stanfords argument [Current Anthropology 39:399-420] that some differences in the diet and behavior between chimpanzees (P. troglodytes) and bonobos are an artefact of the limited number of bonobo study populations. If bonobos did obtain the monkey by active hunting, this would challenge current evolutionary models relating the intra-specific aggression and violence seen in chimpanzees and humans to hunting and meat consumption [Wrangham, Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 42:1-30].
Cortisol excretion in males of group living species is often associated with social rank and competition for oestrous females. Rank-related patterns of cortisol levels can be used to study mechanisms of rank maintenance and costs associated with mate competition. Bonobos (Pan paniscus) are interesting because males form a linear dominance hierarchy but are not dominant over females and therefore aggressive male-male competition over access to females alone is not considered to be a successful reproductive strategy. In this study on social correlates of urinary cortisol in wild male bonobos, we investigated the relationship between cortisol levels and several aspects of mate competition, including male rank, aggression rates, and association time with oestrous females. We found that cortisol levels correlated positively with dominance rank when oestrous females were present, but not when they were absent. This result is consistent with the idea that aggressive behaviour plays a minor role in maintenance of high rank. While aggression received from males and females explained within-individual variation in cortisol levels, it was the time spent in association with oestrous females that best explained between-individual variation in male cortisol levels. The observed increase in male cortisol may be associated with spatial proximity to oestrous females and could result from anticipated aggression from other group members, reduced feeding time in the males, or a combination of both.
Adrenarche is characterized by the onset of adrenal secretions of increasing amounts of dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-S). While the function of adrenarche remains a matter of speculation, evidence suggests that the morphological and physiological changes related to it are restricted to humans and closely related primates. Within the primate order, adrenarche has been described only in humans and chimpanzees, but bonobos, the sister species of chimpanzees, have not yet been studied regarding the early ontogenetic changes such as adrenarche. While bonobos and chimpanzees share many morphological and behavioral characteristics, they differ in a number of behavioral traits, and there is a growing interest in terms of the physiological differences that can be linked to species-specific patterns of social behavior. In this study, we measured urinary DHEA-S levels to determine whether bonobos experience physiological changes that are indicative of adrenarche. We measured DHEA-S in urine using ELISA and analyzed its levels in the samples from 53 bonobos aged 1-18 years. Our results show that bonobos experience an increase in DHEA-S levels after 5 years of age, which is comparable with the patterns observed in humans and chimpanzees. This indicates that bonobos do undergo adrenarche and that the timing of onset is similar to that of the two Pan species. The extraction procedures described in this report demonstrate the use of urine for monitoring ontogenetic changes in DHEA-S excretion. If applicable to other species, the technique would facilitate more research on the evolutionary origin of adrenarche and other developmental processes.
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