Let me just say right up front, I find bonobo behavior fascinating. With the arrival of the sequenced human genome, scientists began looking at the genetic makeup of just about everything they could get their hands on, but especially those creatures that evolutionary biologists have long seen as our closest relatives—chimps and bonobos.
We discovered right away that we are genetically very close to chimpanzees and a recent study (published in Nature) of the last ape to be sequenced (the bonobo) shows that we share essentially 99% of our genes with the bonobo.
Bonobos and chimps have very diverse approaches to life and behavior. Chimps, especially mature ones, tend toward violence and bonobos are the “hippie chimp,” that is, they are not generally violent and they play, share, and resolve conflict through sex. With this in mind, some humans are in touch with their inner-chimp and some are in touch with their inner-bonobo. The following three videos look at bonobo behavior and cognition. Prepare to be surprised.
1) Kanzi: The Vocabulary Jedi
Kanzi is a male bonobo whose language skills are simply more than child’s play. The video speaks for itself.
2) Bonobos sharing food. A recent study by Duke University demonstrates that bonobos often share food with others voluntarily. Other studies show that they share even with those of a different species.
3) Bonobos resolving conflict through sex.
Bonobos are very free with sex, using it as a means for conflict resolution and play. (Note: This segment is from Nightline and it is mildly censored. If you are sensitive to discussion of sexual behavior, human or otherwise, this may not be for you.)