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SOCIAL BONDS AND GENETIC TIES: KINSHIP, ASSOCIATION AND AFFILIATION IN A COMMUNITY OF BONOBOS (PAN PANISCUS)

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Studies of captive populations of bonobos suggest that females are more gregarious than males. This seems to contradict assumed sex-differences in kinship deriving from a species-typical dispersal pattern of female exogamy and male philopatry. Here we present data on spatial associations and affiliative relations among members of one wild community (Eyengo) for which genetic relationships were identified by analysing mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. Our data from Lomako confirm the existence of spatial associations among resident females. In addition, they reveal strong social bonds between males and females. While most female-female associations did not last longer than one field season, long-term associations occurred predominantly between mixed-sex dyads and involved both close kin and unrelated individuals. Differences in social grooming appeared to be related to patterns of spatial association rather than to kinship. It is suggested that under natural conditions social organisation of bonobos is characterised by strong inter-sexual bonds. Males may benefit from bonding with females by increased reproductive success via rank acquisition. For females benefits may derive from inclusive fitness and reduced food competition. Preliminary evidence suggests that females also may benefit from protection by resident males against male intruders.

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