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- Largely diurnal.
- In one day:
- 43% of day spent resting
- 18% arboreal feeding
- 20% terrestrial activities (travel and feeding)
- 13% traveling
- Travel 1.5-15 km/day to forage.
- Nest construction is similar to that of common chimp.
- Usually built in fruit-bearing trees;
- Saplings less than 8 in diameter are favored.
- Average nest height is 7-15 m (23 - 49 ft).
- Adult bonobos sometimes share a nest (night or day);
- A unique behavior among African apes.
- Researchers at Wamba (Kano 1992; Kano et al 1996) observed a basic rhythm in daily activities:
- Rise in early morning (0500-0600 hr). Feeding is an immediate priority.
- After a rest period the troop leisurely travels on the ground to the next food trees, feeding on terrestrial plants as they go.
- Gradual decline in activity around mid-day.
- Afternoon is spent in more feeding and travel.
- Arboreal night nests are made at or near the last feeding site.
- Settle for the night at 1830-1930 PM.
- Both bonobo and chimpanzee societies have fission-fusion social organization (de Waal 1995)
- Both species travel through their habitats in groups of a few individuals; group composition changes constantly
- Three kinds of social groups are formed:
- Between mothers and their offspring; these are the most stable. (Kuroda 1989)
- Between females
- Between males and females
- More data is available for social behavior of wild chimpanzees than for wild bonobos.
- Comparisons between the two species often based on insufficient data or should be interpreted with care.
- Many studies were based on common chimpanzee populations in Tanzania that might not be typical of all chimpanzees.
- Much data on bonobo social interactions are based on Yerkes National Primate Research Center and San Diego Zoo, two colonies under managed care.
- Both colonies characterized as peaceful, egalitarian, and female dominated.
- Stevens et al (2008) caution that all bonobos in managed care may not share the same behaviors as these two colonies.
- Bonobo (Pan paniscus) and chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) groups in many studies are shown to have distinct differences in social organization. (Hohmann & Fruth 2002)
- Chimpanzee society characteristics: (Goodall 1986, Watts 1998):
- Male dominated based on alliances with other males, often supported by considerable aggression .
- Traveling parties tend to be small and male dominated.
- Females tend to not travel with males in order to avoid aggression.
- Bonobo society characteristics: (Kano 1992, 1996) (de Waal 1995, 1997):
- Form larger parties biased towards females
- Males show dominance relations among themselves with less aggression than shown by chimpanzees
- Aggression by males towards females less than seen in chimpanzees.
- Bonobo female bonds observed in captivity may be a side effect of life in captivity. (Stevens et al 2008)
- Other studies suggest "differences between chimpanzee and bonobos could be related more to the ecological conditions" than to true species differences; the two species may, in fact, have similar behavioral diversity. (Hohmann & Fruth 2002) (Boesch & Boesch-Achermann 2000)
- Chimpanzees in dense forest habitats of Tai Forest in Côte d' Ivoire, Africa show similar party sizes and association patterns to bonobos who also occupy forest habitats.
- Both chimpanzee and bonobo societies have social interactions that are extremely variable, with the factors affecting the differences still not clear. (White & Chapman 1994)
Hierarchy and bonding (Stevens et al 2008) (de Waal 1995, 1997) (Parish 1993, 1996)
- A study by Stevens et al (2008) found bonding patterns in four managed care bonobo groups and wild populations to be similar:
- Males established hierarchical dominance relationships among themselves
- Males are rarely near one another and do not often groom each other.
- Males compete for rank, which is influenced greatly by rank of mother.
- Highest ranking males did not necessarily have the most copulations
- Male rank did not determine mating success, probably because female mate choice also plays a role.
- Because females' time of ovulation is hidden and multiple matings are the rule, there may be little reproductive benefit to males of being high-ranking.
- Females establish dominance relationships among themselves, but they are less expressed or obvious than the males'.
- Females do not groom each other more than males groom each other but they are more often near each other
- Females support each other more often than they support males
- Compared to chimpanzees, bonobo females in captivity are more socially integrated and bond more frequently. (Parish 1993, 1996)
- Females exchange various types of social behaviors such as genito-genital rubbing, peering, and food sharing
- Exchanges reduce tension and promote the formation of social bonds.
- Females usually gather in the center of a mixed party.
- Oldest and highest-ranking adult females with grown sons are core of group.
- Other males tend to be lower-ranking and stay at periphery.
- Most females can dominate males even though they are physically smaller.
- Females are either co-dominant or moderately dominant over males.
- Males are rarely submissive to young females, but always behave submissively to a group the female aggregate.
- Female bonobos in managed care at Planckendael animal park in Belgium (in a naturalistic setting) banded together to chase away harassing males; allied females could "outcompete" individual males who were larger or stronger.
- A similar pattern of female dominated society observed by Furuichi at Wamba in the Congo Basin where males surrendered feeding positions when females appeared.
- In bonobo populations in managed care, as well as the wild, females may form alliances in order to attack males. (Stevens et al 2008)
- Attacks can be quite fierce, resulting in injuries but not death
- Male chimpanzee attacks, by contrast, on neighbors in wild populations may result in death.
- Even an alpha male would not strike back if attacked by an adult female. (Kuroda 1989)
- Unrelated males and females form bonds as strong as some female-female bonds.
- Females leave their birth unit-groups as older juveniles or young adolescents and settle in another unit-group after visiting several. (Kano 1992)
- Newly immigrated young females elicit social interactions with older females to improve their social positions.
- After giving birth, female social status in her new group becomes more stable.
- Males stay with their mother's group and may continue to be with her even when old.
- Grooming between adult males and females is more common than observed in chimpanzees
- Number of males vs females and overall number of individuals of the groups in which the bonobos live may determine, in part, their grooming partners.
- Bonobo society emphasizes female bonds but have a potential for male bonding (de Waal 2001)
- Chimpanzees by contrast, emphasize male bonding with a potential for female bonding.
- Bonobos show no formal signs of submission like the pant-grunting and bobbing of chimpanzees. (Stevens et al 2008)
- Behaviors which may be called "reconciliation" seems to function to preserve long-term relationships. (de Waal 2001)
- Sitting next to one another in contact and grooming help to reconcile or console individuals after conflict.
- Both male and female bonobos, in contrast to chimpanzees, often use sexual behavior either to ease tension in aggressive situations or in the aftermath of aggression.
- The fact that there is a need for reconciliation suggests that it would be wrong to think of bonobos as entirely peaceful; the level of violence is merely lower in general than seen in chimpanzees
- Interactions between communities haven't been often observed but appear to consist of "vocal contests" and avoidance of confrontation.
- Wamba has highest density of bonobos (1.7 per sq km). Average common chimp density is 2.6-6 per sq km.
- Bonobos do not typically react with aggression when meeting individuals from neighboring territories. (de Waal 1995, 2001)
- Lethal aggression (infanticide, cannibalism, warfare) hasn't been observed to date. (de Waal 2001)
- This is a significant contrast with common chimpanzees who often engage in aggression when meeting neighboring individuals.
- At Lomako, female bonobos range territories equal or greater in size to the range of the males. (White & Waller 2008)
- By contrast chimpanzee females range over an average of only 70% of male ranges.
- Bonobo males do not form raiding parties that seek to reduce or eliminate neighboring males, gain additional mates, and expand their territories as do male chimpanzees
- Current behavior studies seek to understand why bonobos don't conduct lethal raids; there may be more advantage to bonobo males in simply predicting females' travels across their large ranges.
Sociosexual behavior (de Waal 1988, 1995, 1997, 2001) (Paoli et al 2006)
- Elaborate sociosexual behaviors are an important aspect of social relationships for juveniles and adults of both sexes
- Sexual behavior is flexible and quite variable; occurs between sexes and in same-sex pairings.
- Male-male mounting and rump contact is common
- Presumably used to defuse tense situations.
- Similar behavior among females consists of genital rubbing.
- Genito-genital rubbing is commonly seen in interactions over food but may happen at other times too.
- May strengthen group integrity and maintain bonds.
- de Waal has developed detailed social ethogram (1988).
- Sexual behavior has important social functions as well as reproductive functions, as it does in human society. (Kano 1989)
- Peering behavior (prolonged close proximity gazing by one bonobo towards another) common
- May function to prompt positive interactions between the two individuals
- Not common between adult males. (Idani 1995).
- A long period of sexual attractiveness may play a role in female-female as well as male-female sociosexual contacts. (Paoli et al 2006).
Gesture (Pollick et al 2008) (de Waal 2001)
- Hand (and even foot) gestures play "a significant role in bonobo communication"
- Some gestures are tactile in nature (involve gentle touching and patting)
- More common among bonobos than chimpanzees.
- Hand gestures used by apes are even more flexible than monkeys' facial expressions and vocalizations.
- Gestural communication along with vocalizations, may be the route by which "symbolic meaning was acquired in our hominid ancestors".
- A hand gesture by an ape depends on its context (what's happening at the time)
- A begging gesture, for example, can mean either a desire for support during a fight or a desire to share food from another individual (Corballis 2002, Pollick and de Waal 2004).
- Use of gestures combined with facial/vocal signals makes getting a response more likely than when only gestures are used.
Vocalizations (Pollick et al. 2008)
- Bonobos are better able to "regulate their vocal output" when compared with chimpanzees.
- Such regulation may make getting a desired response more likely.
- Bonobos produce "vocal chatter" to get attention in the absence of excitement.
- Low-intensity vocalizations by bonobos signal the presence of food.
- Chimpanzees produce vocalizations mainly in highly charged situations such as aggression or when expecting food.
- 14 reported vocalizations (de Waal 1989).
- Upon arriving at a preferred food source, large parties of bonobos will emit simultaneous food calls.
- Calls inform members of party of food source
- May inform other groups of party size
- Have a distinct high-pitched "metallic" alarm call which both males and females emit.
- May hiss in tense situations.
- Chimp-like pant-grunt sounds rare; instead, faint "ku,ku,ku"
- Most long-distance travel is done on the ground, using "knuckle-walk" (a quadrupedal motion with the fore-limbs utilizing the dorsal surface of the knuckles for support/weight-bearing).
- When carrying food or other objects, tripedal (one hand down on ground) and bipedal gaits are used.
- Although the bonobos can walk bipedally, this behavior is not as specialized as it is in humans.
- When walking upright the back is held straighter, more human-like, than that of chimpanzees. (de Waal 20021)
- Far more arboreal than the common chimp:
- Engage in arm swinging (alternating hand-to-hand progression beneath branches),
- "Quadrupedal scrambling" on top of branches and boughs
- Leaping and diving as a means of transferring from tree to tree
- Vertical climbing: more versatile than gorilla climbing
- Have been known to travel over 1 km through the trees from 1 food source to another.
- When alarmed arboreal travel may be used to escape.
- Vertical jumping used in trees and on the ground.
- May wade in shallow streams and pools while feeding and traveling
- Gather algae and aquatic vegetation in waist-deep water
- Chimpanzees avoid going into the water; may invent a tool for safely sweeping for algae from the shore (Matsuzawa 2000)
Tool use (Ingmason 1996) (Hohmann & Fruth 2003)
- Only rarely seen in the wild
- Behaviors observed in wild include:
- Constructing a rain hat out of branches
- Shaping a twig for a toothpick
- Using mosses to sponge water to drink
Play (de Waal 1989) (Enomoto 1990) (Kano 1992) (Palagi & Paoli 2008)
- Bonobos are extremely playful.
- Some 17 categories of play behavior noted by Palagi & Paoli (2008) in a study of bonobos at Apenheul Primate Park in the Netherlands.
- Airplane, Grab Gentle, Play Push, Play Bite, Play Recovering a Thing, Play Slap, Tickle, Pirouetting, Acrobatic Play, Play Run, Play Stamping, Rough and Tumble, Play Brusque Rush, Play Retrieve, Play Invitation, Play Face, Full Play Face)
- Play sessions typically begin with a signal that: "this is play"; playful facial displays often began a bonobo play encounter.
- Play was predominantly rough-and-tumble between juveniles observed at Wamba in the Congo Basin.
- Play between adults and between adults and juveniles was also observed at Wamba.
- Play may have a role in courtship and is often a part of sexual encounters.
- Adult bonobos seem to have no age preferences when it comes to choosing a play partner; chimpanzee adults, however, usually play with juveniles.
- Adult females exhibit much social play, which is unusual for primates, and more like that of the spotted hyaena. (Palagi & Paoli 2008)
- Adult females play mainly with each other.
- Both the spotted hyaenas and bonobos have female dominance and a fission-fusion social structure.
- Adult play may have a role in reducing tensions between individuals or in social assessment. (Palagi & Paoli 2008)
- Bonobos in managed care played more during times before feeding, perhaps because they anticipate tension.
- Bonobos in captivity observed a level of social reciprocal play (such as object catching) comparable to human children.
- If a game is deliberately stopped the bonobos attempted to cajole the partner into resuming the game.
- Common chimpanzees don't try to re-start the game and soon lose interest.
Communication Through Touch
Anderson et al. (2002)
Boesch & Boesch-Achermann (2000)
Hohmann & Fruth (2002)
Kano et al. (1996)
Palagi & Paoli (2008)
Parish (1993, 1996)
Pollick & de Waal (2004)
Pollick et al. (2008)
Stevens et al. (2008)
de Waal (1995, 1997, 2001)
White & Chapman (1994)
White & Waller (2008)
SDZWA Library Links
Fact Sheet Index
Fact sheet index, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
Home page, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
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