I don’t know what to make of this new evolutionary theory. There was a study recently done of chimps and bonobos (our closest relatives) to see which species could learn quicker.
The two types of ape are very close to each other, genetically, but the clear differences are believed to be down to simple evolution, said lead researcher Victoria Wobber.
Her team put both chimps and bonobos through a variety of skill tests with rewards for those who completed various tasks the quickest.
They included a sharing exercise and a begging exercise in which they had to work out which of their keepers was most generous. In all cases the chimps learnt the tasks fastest and to their better advantage.
She believes that the ability to “restrain” their sociability was one of the reasons they were more intelligent and more civilised.
She said: “Bonobos took longer to develop the same skill level shown even among the youngest of the chimpanzees that were tested.
To paraphrase, chimps get ornery as they get older with more aggression and less desire to share their stuff. And their research suggests this could be a good thing.
Pity the poor bonobo who’s too laid back and easy going? Not quite yet. Instead of getting that aggressive, they just have lots of sex. And this is worth quoting:
Just imagine that we had never heard of chimpanzees or baboons and had known bonobos first. We would at present most likely believe that early hominids lived in female- centered societies, in which sex served important social functions and in which warfare was rare or absent. In the end, perhaps the most successful reconstruction of our past will be based not on chimpanzees or even on bonobos but on a three-way comparison of chimpanzees, bonobos and humans.
Maybe it looks like the chimps have an edge, but there are benefits to both types of lifestyle exhibited by our kin. No doubt more research will go into their findings to expand on or disprove what they discovered.