Bonobos rule!

In a recent episode of Living on Earth there was a fascinating discussion about Bonobos. I catch Living on Earth as a podcast and it is always interesting even though it always pulls its environmental punches.
But the discussion about Bonobos was fascinating.
Bonobos:...the scientific name for the Bonobo is Pan paniscus. Since the Bonobo DNA is at least 95% equal to that of Homo sapiens, some scientists maintain that they (and the Common Chimpanzee) should be reclassified as members of the genus Homo -- Homo paniscus, Homo sylvestris, or Homo arboreus. An alternate philosophy suggests that the term Homo sapiens is actually the misnomer, and that humanity should be reclassified as Pan sapiens.
OK these chimps are close to us genetically but where the real interest arises is in their social behaviour especially in contrast to that of the Common Chimpanzee.
You'll note how much the mores of the Common Chimpanzee has been utilized to denigrate us humans as nastyish and brutish in such works as The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond.
With Jane Goodall recently across our shores, the Bonobos is a welcomed antidote to the reactionary ideology that has been generated around Chimpanzee behaviour as indicative of our own apparent sentience to "violence and savagery".
So the society of the Bonobos -- the Pygmy Chimpanzee -- warrants careful study.
Here's a taste of what Amy Parish has to say on the program.(Catch it, it's a fascinating discussion).

PARISH: It really is. And not everybody's been willing to accept that because it is so rare in mammals to see patterns of female dominance. For so long our only model that we could use to guess about our evolution, and what our last common ancestor would have looked like with chimpanzees five million years ago, was a chimpanzee model. We've been studying chimps for forty years in the wild and so we know a lot about their patriarchy and about their patterns of warfare, and that seems similar to humans.





We only learned about bonobos much later –they were only recognized as a separate species in the 1920s. And what we're seeing with bonobos is a very different pattern: female dominance; resolving conflict using sex; no infanticide; not necessarily only the males hunting and eating meat. And so, not everybody's comfortable with the idea that our last common ancestor might have been matriarchal, maybe sort of aggressive towards males....
PARISH: People are uncomfortable with the idea that females mighthold the power because it's just so contrary to our understanding ofthe natural order of things. And so I even have colleagues who are chimpanzee researchers who refuse to accept that the pattern is female dominance. So, for instance, they call it "strategic male deference" [LAUGHS] which basically means, well, you know, of course the males could be in charge if they wanted to, but for strategic reasons they're stepping back and letting females have the upper hand, maybe. Maybe so they get more sex out of it, is the basic idea.
CURWOOD: (LAUGHS)
PARISH: And, you know, we never say that when it's male dominance. We never say, 'oh, well, obviously the females could be dominant if they wanted to, but for strategic reasons they're stepping back.' I've even seen in scientific literature the pattern that we see in bonobos has been described as "male chivalry," which is not at all an empirical term for a scientific paper. It's not chivalry, it's just that females have the upper hand. Bonobos at del.icio.us


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