Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Health

Bonobos, the "gentle ape"?

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanJuly 25, 2007 10:47 PM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Check out a long piece on bonobos in The New Yorker. Now, I've read a fair amount of Frans de Waal's work, and I think the piece is making him out to be a little more PC than he is. Nevertheless, I am a bit disturbed by the fact that hasn't seen a Bonobo in the wild! I just happened to have missed that assumed that though most of his research was based on captive animals, there must have been some field research supplementing it. No. And de Waal's response it pretty lame:

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?" De Waal has argued that, even if captive bonobo behavior is somewhat skewed, it can still be usefully contrasted with the behavior of captive chimpanzees; he has even written that "only captive studies control for environmental conditions and thereby provide conclusive data on interspecific differences." Stanford's reply is that "different animals respond very differently to captivity."

Frans has to know about the problems that might occur because of a norm of reaction. Environments don't always have the same linear effect on phenotype as you vary them across different genotypes. Bonobos are complex creatures, just like humans. Just as controlled psychological studies on colleges students are important in smoking out the nature of our own species' cognitive apparatus, field work by anthropologists is also essential in documenting the extent of variation of behavior in the "wild." It see no reason why the same principle wouldn't apply to great apes, even if to a lesser extent. Update: Here's an interview with a Bonoboologist.

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In