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Food begging and sharing in wild bonobos (Pan paniscus): assessing relationship quality?

Primates 57: 367-76. doi: 10.1007/s10329-016-0522-6. Epub 2016 Mar 12.

Authors/Editors: Goldstone LG
Sommer V
Nurmi N
Stephens C
Fruth B
Publication Date: 2016
Type of Publication: Journal Articles 2010 - 2019


Food transfers are often hypothesised to have played a role in the evolution of cooperation amongst humans. However, they also occur in non-human primates, though no consensus exists regarding their function(s). We document patterns of begging for food and success rates as well as associated factors that may influence them for wild bonobos at LuiKotale, Democratic Republic of Congo. Our data, collected over 1074 observation hours, focus on 260 begging events (outside mother-offspring dyads) of which 37 % were successful. We find no support for the "reciprocity hypothesis"-that food is exchanged for grooming and/or sexual benefits; and only weak support for the "sharing under pressure" hypothesis-that food is transferred as a result of harassment and pays off in terms of nutritional benefits for the beggar. Instead, our data support the "assessing-relationships" hypothesis, according to which beggars gain information about the status of their social relationship with the possessor of a food item. This seems to hold particularly true for the frequent, albeit unsuccessful begging events by young females (newly immigrated or hierarchically non-established) towards adult females, although it can be observed in other dyadic combinations independent of sex and age.

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