Friday, August 03, 2007

Love Those Bonobos!

John Hawks blogs about a great article on Bonobos in the New Yorker. You can read the full article here.

One of the things Hawks quotes from the article is, "Captivity can have a striking impact on animal behavior. As Craig Stanford, a primatologist at the University of Southern California, recently put it, 'Stuck together, bored out of their minds -- what is there to do except eat and have sex?' "

Yes. It would be like a researcher looking into human behavior by studying prison populations. Not that you couldn't find out some important things from such research (many such studies have indeed been done), but it hardly gives you a handle on their true nature.

If you aren't particularly familiar with the Bonobo, they are a species of Chimpanzee, Pan Paniscus (also known as Pygmy Chimps, found in Central Africa). Pan Paniscus lives a strikingly different life style from their cousin Chimps (living in western Africa), the Pan troglodytes. These have always been thought of as our closest genetic relatives. They are, genetically, closer to us than they are to gorillas. They were thought to be only two species of Pan. Now there may be a third that makes a living partly by feasting on big cats!

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