Frans de Waal: Moral Behaviour in Animals
Bonobos voluntarily share food and will even forego their own meals for a stranger, but only if the recipient offers them social interaction, according to research published January 2 by Jingzhi Tan and Brian Hare of Duke University.
In a series of experiments, the researchers found that bonobos would voluntarily forego their food and offer it to a stranger in exchange for social interaction. The authors found that the bonobos’ behavior was at least partially driven by unselfish motivations, since the animals helped strangers acquire food that was out of reach even when no social interaction was possible as a result of helping them. However, their generosity had its limits: Animals would not share food in their possession if no social interaction was possible.
Though the study subjects were all bonobos that had been orphaned by the bushmeat trade in Congo, they showed no significant psychological differences from bonobos that had been raised by their mothers. According to the authors, their results reveal the evolution of generosity in these apes, our closest living relatives. They suggest that the behavior may have evolved to allow for the expansion of individual social networks.
Lead author Tan adds, “Our results show that generosity toward strangers is not unique to humans. Like chimpanzees, our species would kill strangers; like bonobos, we could also be very nice to strangers. Our results highlight the importance of studying bonobos to fully understand the origins of such human behaviors.”
Non-human primates may enjoy watching someone else trip on a banana peel, according to new research on laughter, which found that apes might appreciate slapstick humor.
The research also helps to explain the origins of laughter and the social aspects of the behavior.
Robin Dunbar, who co-authored one such study with Guillaume Dezecache, described what non-human primates might be amused by.
"The use of language-based jokes is clearly unique to humans," Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford, told Discovery News. "There is some suggestion that apes ‘play practical jokes’ or laugh at another’s misfortune, such as the banana skin situation, but these are only casual observations."
"Human laughter derives from the play invitation vocalizations of Old World monkeys and apes, but this is normally confined to juveniles and adolescents; adults don’t play," he continued.
"In apes, this is identifiably rather closer to human laughter," Dunbar explained, "and bonobos in particular use laughter a lot in play contexts, even among adults. What seems to have happened is that humans have taken these monkey/ape play vocalizations and tweaked them and increased the frequency of their use."
Human laughter still has an animalistic quality, in the sense that it involves a series of rapid exhalation-inhalation cycles comparable to other primate sounds; it’s louder than human speech; and, like sneezing, laughter is contagious.
Read More at discovery.com
Kanzi, the “genius ape”, might be sent to a zoo due to a lack of funding at the Great Ape Trust. Help save him and his bonobo brethren by donating what you can!
Kanzi does NOT belong in a zoo. Here’s a quick list of what he is capable of:
Kanzi Demonstrates mastery of thousands of words on his touch screen lexicon (with symbols that look nothing like the words he picks, ensuring that he must truly understand the words verbally and conceptually, not just by the pictures). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRM7vTrIIis&playnext=1&list=PL3FF32A155BDBFDF9&feature=results_main
Kanzi Understands Spoken Language http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxmbjLoUnhk
Kanzi can understand complex sentences and commands http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Dhc2zePJFE
Kanzi in the Kitchen -Skip to about 1:20 to see Kanzi http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxmvRpnVXJQ
Kanzi can make stone cutting tools http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PljsEwjGSn0
PLEASE support this AMAZING groundbreaking scientific project by following this link and donating what you can!
Why are there still chimpanzees?
Biologist Richard Dawkins clears up a popular misunderstanding of evolution: “If we evolved from chimpanzees, how come there are still chimpanzees?”
(Source: , via fyeahgreatapes)
Kanzi the bonobo continues to impress. Not content with learning sign language or making up “words” for things like banana or juice, he now seems capable of making stone tools on a par with the efforts of early humans.
Eviatar Nevo of the University of Haifa in Israel and his colleagues sealed food inside a log to mimic marrow locked inside long bones, and watched Kanzi, a 30-year-old male bonobo chimp, try to extract it. While a companion bonobo attempted the problem a handful of times, and succeeded only by smashing the log on the ground, Kanzi took a longer and arguably more sophisticated approach.
Both had been taught to knap flint flakes in the 1990s, holding a stone core in one hand and using another as a hammer. Kanzi used the tools he created to come at the log in a variety of ways: inserting sticks into seams in the log, throwing projectiles at it, and employing stone flints as choppers, drills, and scrapers. In the end, he got food out of 24 logs, while his companion managed just two.
Perhaps most remarkable about the tools Kanzi created is their resemblance to early hominid tools. Both bonobos made and used tools to obtain food – either by extracting it from logs or by digging it out of the ground. But only Kanzi’s met the criteria for both tool groups made by early Homo: wedges and choppers, and scrapers and drills.
Do Kanzi’s skills translate to all bonobos? It’s hard to say. The abilities of animals like Alex the parrot, who could purportedly count to six, and Betty the crow, who crafted a hook out of wire, sometimes prompt claims about the intelligence of an entire species. But since these animals are raised in unusual environments where they frequently interact with humans, their cases may be too singular to extrapolate their talents to their brethren.
The findings will fuel the ongoing debate over whether stone tools mark the beginning of modern human culture, or predate our Homo genus. They appear to suggest the latter – though critics will point out that Kanzi and his companion were taught how to make the tools. Whether the behaviour could arise in nature is unclear.
Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1212855109
Kanzi, the Bonobo, follows fairly complex vocal instructions.
A TED lecture from Susan Savage-Rumbaugh, about Bonobos, their culture, and cultural transmission. It kinda jumps around a bit (there are other clips inserted which makes it a bit weird to watch at times) but it is fascinating.
A Wayne State University School of Medicine researcher is one step closer to understanding the genetic basis that enable bonobos, one of humankind’s sibling species, to learn language, play music and use rudimentary tools.
Derek Wildman, Ph.D., led a team that isolated the DNA and sequenced the genome, or whole inherited genetic make-up, of Kanzi, a bonobo based at the Bonobo Hope Great Ape Trust Sanctuary in Des Moines, Iowa. The sequencing, only the second of its kind, was performed at both WSU and an off-site private company.
Dr. Wildman is associate professor of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, and of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He is the director of the Molecular Evolution Group at WSU’s Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics.
Kanzi, 32, was raised from birth in a family of five humans and eight bonobos, and was trained to use and understand simple spoken English to communicate. He also plays music, makes fire, cooks simple meals, and makes and uses flint knives. The goal of sequencing Kanzi’s genome is to understand the unique abilities of Kanzi and the other bonobos living at the sanctuary.
“We can compare Kanzi’s genome to the genomes of humans, and other primates in order to see what is unique about Kanzi from a genetic perspective,” Dr. Wildman said. “We also can see what Kanzi shares with other primates. Because we have also sequenced his transcriptome we can build gene models that are more accurate, and we can see which genes are expressed in his blood, and in the placenta of Kanzi’s son, Teco. This is a very important first step in untangling nature from nurture in the cognitive development of bonobos.”
Read More at Prognosis E News
Self-recognition in the great apes. A short clip from a Nat Geo tv show, which compares the development of human self-recognition to that of the apes - turns out it’s almost exactly the same. Also, this has some super cute infant Chimpanzee footage ;)