Monday, June 1, 2009
A Unique Ape of Critical Importance
Bonobos are humankind’s closest primate relatives, along with chimpanzees and share more than 98% of their DNA with humans, yet most people don’t even know that bonobos exist. They are distinguished from chimpanzees by their black face, pink lips, smaller head, brow ridge and ears, long black hair that parts in the middle, thinner neck, longer legs, and shorter arms.
The most unusual and compelling feature of bonobos is their society. In contrast to the competitive, male-dominated culture of chimpanzees, bonobo society is peaceful, matriarchal and more egalitarian. Female bonobos form close bonds and alliances with each other, which is another way they maintain their power among males, who are larger and stronger physically.
Bonobos exhibit care and compassion for each other and habitually engage in a great deal of sexual activity. Sex transcends reproduction in bonobo society, as it does in human society, and serves to promote bonding, reduce tensions and share pleasure.