Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Briefly: Science

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Briefly: Science

Article excerpt

As compiled by editors of the International Herald Tribune.

ANTHROPOLOGY

Bonobos' altruism offers insight into human behavior

Bonobos will happily share their food with a stranger, and even give up their own meal -- but only if the stranger offers them social interaction, evolutionary anthropologists at Duke University report in the journal PLoS One. The researchers, Jingzhi Tan and Brian Hare, say their findings may shed light on the origins of altruism in humans.

Along with chimpanzees, bonobos are among the closest primates to humans. Chimpanzees, however, do not display similar behavior toward strangers.

"If you only studied chimps you would think that humans evolved this trait of sharing with strangers later," Mr. Tan said. "But now, given that bonobos do this, one scenario is that the common ancestor of chimps, humans and bonobos had this trait."

In one phase of the study, bonobos were given a pile of food, then given the opportunity to release a stranger or a group mate (or both) from other rooms.

The bonobos chose to release strangers and share their food.

The apes did have a limit -- they would not share their own food when no social interaction was involved. …

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