Food and the Status Quest: An Interdisciplinary Perspective

By Polly Wiessner; Wulf Schiefenhövel | Go to book overview

5. FOOD SHARING AND STATUS IN UNPROVISIONED BONOBOS

Gottfried Hohmann & Barbara Fruth

S haring of food has been reported from different primate species, including marmosets ( Goldizen 1986), douc langurs ( Kavanagh 1972), gibbons ( Schessler and Nash 1977), chimpanzees ( Lavick-Goodall 1968; Nishida 1970; McGrew this volume), bonobos ( Kuroda 1984; Badrian and Malenky 1984), and in the vast literature on the topic in humans (see Kaplan 1983 for a comprehensive review). Attempts to explain the evolution and manifestation of food sharing have involved various mechanisms, including kin selection ( Axelrod and Hamilton 1981), reciprocal altruism ( Trivers 1971), contest over resources ( Blurton Jones 1984), and selfish behavior ( Moore 1984). The benefits of food sharing among close kin (e.g. mother/offspring) are obvious and do not require reciprocation. In case of food sharing among unrelated individuals, however, sharing is thought to become beneficial for the donor if the recipient reciprocates food sharing at another time and/or with another "currency" (e.g. grooming, defense, mating opportunities) or if begging for food raises the social status of the donor ( de Waal 1989; Strum 1975). Sharing with distantly related individuals thus can be part of strategies to rise in status via alliance formation or food distribution, among other things. Since the status structure of bonobos groups is not yet well understood, in this chapter we will give the results of our study on food sharing, and then present a hypothesis concerning food sharing and status: that food sharing is one means of forming and maintaining alliances among females, and that it is partly through such alliances that females maintain higher status than males.

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