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Begging and sharing among bonobos: nutritional acquisition or social tools for a cohesive society?

Food sharing is hypothesised to have played a major role in the evolution of cooperation and reciprocity in humans. This behaviour is well documented in non-human primates, but no consensus has been reached regarding its function(s). Furthermore, very little attention has been paid to the acts and gestures used to solicit sharing (i.e. "begging"). Lucas Goldstone’s PhD-thesis will shed light on the patterns of begging and sharing in wild bonobos (Pan paniscus) at LuiKotale (Democratic Republic of the Congo), specifically with regards to the effect of social relationships and nutritional availability on these behaviours. Do bonobos beg to each other primarily for access to nutritional benefits conferred by otherwise inaccessible food, or are begging and sharing means of assessing affiliative status? How do these behaviours relate to and change according to social relationships?
He will pay specific attention to questions such as which individuals beg and share with whom, under which conditions, and why? How do begging and sharing function to create or maintain relationships between individuals? Are social affiliations partially mediated by food availability? How and why might this be different in bonobos, relative to other species? Understanding these behaviours in wild bonobos and their congener, the chimpanzees (P. troglodytes), may shed light on the evolution of sharing, cooperation, and social relationships in both human and non-human societies. In addition, Lucas Goldstone intends to approach food sharing in bonobos from a neuroscientific perspective, by paying particular attention to its role in social cognition. He intends to integrate his recently acquired neuroscientific background speculating upon the role of neural pathways and brain regions associated with sociality and social behaviour in humans and other primates, as well as using neuroscientific methods such as network analyses.
Lucas Goldstone will use long-term behavioural and ecological observations, as well as urinary C-peptide measurements to determine the effect of energy balance, food availability, and social factors on begging and sharing. His data will be used to shed light upon the potential functions of food sharing in our closest living relatives, and thus, in human evolution.
Date:1 Oct 2014 →  Today
Project type:PhD project