Bonobos: The Sexually Apt Swinging Ape

5/17/2011 06:17:00 PM ·

Bonobo: The Forgotten ApeBonobos are often called the “Pygmy Chimpanzee.” They are a species of great ape found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their genus, the classification just above species in the taxonomic rating system, is Pan, which they share with only one other species, the Common Chimpanzee. The Bonobos are typically found in limited range-forests of west central Africa ans are slightly smaller but leaner and more defined than the Common Pan troglodytes. Bonobos also walk on two feet more than any other primate.Evolutionary Anthropology suggests they are more closely related to humans than they are to gorillas.

The Physical Characteristics of Bonobos


The swinging ape is more slender than the Common Chimpanzee. They have smaller heads with less prominent brows. They have black faces with pink lips, long parted hair, small ears and wide nostrils. Unlike the Common Chimpanzee, the females have more prominent breasts, but they are still less prominent than in human females. Like humans, they have extremely expressive facial features which they use for social interactions. Also, like humans, they have a high level of individual face variation.


The Habitat of Bonobo Apes


Approximately ten thousand of them live south of the Congo River and north of the Kasai River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are hunted for bush meat (especially with the conflict of the ongoing civil war) and have experienced extreme habitat loss, therefore they are listed as an endangered species.

The Diet of Bonobos

They are mainly known the be frugivorous, they subsist mostly on a diet of fruit. However, they are known to supplement their diets with other foods. These foods, from knowledge obtained so far, are leaves and sometimes even the meat of small animals.

The Social and Sexual Behavior of Bonobos

The majority of studies in anthropology agree that the females in the swinging ape society have the highest social standing. Some studies suggest that there are alpha males who lead the troops, but even they are selected by the social standing of their mothers. The mother-son bond plays a very strong role in the society and continues throughout their lives. The mothers will often carry and nurse their children for five to six years.


The sexual behavior of Bonobos and intercourse plays a large role in the society. With study, it appears that intercourse is used as a greeting, of resolving conflict and as a post-conflict resolution. The sex life of Bonobos reads like the cover of a tabloid. They are the only non-human animals on Earth who engage in many of the same sexual activities as humans. The sex life of Bonobos includes face to face sex, oral sex and tongue kissing. There are also many reports of same sex interactions between the apes. Lastly, members of the society who are sterile or too young to reproduce will still participate in sexual acts.

How Close are They to Humans?


 © BFS Man

 


They communicate through vocal means primarily. Their hand and facial gestures are very easy for humans to understand. At the Great Ape trust, a scientific research facility in Des Moines, Iowa, two of the primates have been taught to communicate with a keyboard using lexigrams, or geometric symbols, and they respond to spoken sentences. It is also believed by many researches that the Bonobos experience and express feelings of joy.

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We're all familiar with the gorilla Koko. I grew up in elementary school, middle school, and high school science classes, watching documentaries and reading about this linguistically enabled gorilla, raised in captivity by Penny Patterson. Koko is a lowland gorilla born in 1971 and at the tender age of one, started The Gorilla Language Project with his teachers.


Anthropological Work of Penny Patterson with Lowland Gorilla Koko via Ancient Digger Archaeology

Sources

Photos courtesy of © courtneyBolton

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