Bonobos Caring for Group Members
There are quite a few social animals in the world, but few species go
out of their way to act as a group to help or care for group members
that are injured or distressed. Humans are the biggest exception and now
we can add bonobos to that short list.
Why are Bonobos different from other primates when it comes to this
behavior? Researchers think that being led by females may be the key.
As soon as the other group members realised the male was trapped, they
gathered around him. One untangled the snare from woody ground vines,
enabling the male to move. Another tried and failed to remove the wire.
Later in the day, the bonobos returned to the dry forest to sleep. The
injured male could not follow.
The next morning, to the researchers' surprise, the bonobos travelled
almost 2 kilometres back to where they had last seen their injured
friend. The animals had already ruled out the area as a good source of
fruit, suggesting they went back just to find him. He had moved on, but
rejoined the group six weeks later
Source: New Scientist, 10 March 2012
It's important to remember that caring for group members is believed
to be one of the key behavioral traits which allowed our species to
develop to the point that it has. It leads to stronger, more cohesive
groups -- and when it's older members that are cared for, it leads to
the preservation and eventual transmission of important cultural
Bonobos are apparently very interested in the emotional states of
other group members. This, in turn, is thought to be related to their
matriarchal power structure. The females are responsible for rearing and
caring for the infants and this might translate into a greater interest
in caring for all members of the group, even if they aren't blood
Knowing the reasons could be useful because whatever is making
Bonobos different here might be a clue as to how and why humans were
also different. It's not a certainty that the reasons would be the same,
but it would make a good place to start looking.
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