Posts tagged with " chimps"

Chimps: it’s so not about meat for sex

Wednesday, 15/04/2009 ≅13:19 ©brainycat

You've probably seen the headlines saying that wild male chimpanzees have been observed sharing meat with females in exchange for sexual favors. While certainly appealing to the sexist "common sense" endemic to our culture, the reality doesn't show this at all. Research by Cristina Gomes and Christophe Boesch of the Max Planck Institute show that males who share meat with females aren't any more likely to get some action when the females go into estrus. Instead, as The Primate Diaries explains:

Rather than such hackneyed cliches as “Sex sells, even in the rainforest” (Cosmos) or “The way to a chimp’s heart is through her stomach” (both Wired and the Chicago Sun-Times) the real story was that female chimpanzees demonstrate flexible and opportunistic strategies to maximize reproductive success. Furthermore, because the sharing of meat was primarily with anestrous females, and because there was no relationship between the amount of meat provided and the number of copulations, suggesting that this had any connection to prostitution or buying someone an expensive meal in order to “get lucky” was to completely miss the point. In all likelihood, females were using these exchanges to determine who would be the best potential father for her offspring over the long term.

Oddly enough, these conclusions don't make it into the popular press. Personally, I think the idea that women may be wired not just to be attracted to males of high status, but also to males who are more likely to share their resources makes more sense. Is it better to get a fraction of more food, or all of a smaller total? I believe western ideals tend toward the latter.

Additionally, the study clearly showed that males shared way more meat with their hunting partners than with females. Where were the "bromance" jokes?