The way to a lady’s heart is through her stomach - if you’re a chimp

April 21st, 2009 - 9:19 am ICT by IANS  

By Ernest Gill
Hamburg, April 21 (DPA) The way to a lady’s heart is through her stomach - if you’re a male chimpanzee seeking a mate. But you have to be patient and feed her lots of meat over a long period of time, according to new findings by German scientists.

Wild female chimpanzees copulate more frequently with males who share meat with them over long periods of time, according to a study led by German researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Munich.

In field studies at Tai National Park, in the Ivory Coast, German scientists Cristina M. Gomes and Christophe Boesch found that female chimpanzees copulate more frequently with males who share meat with them on at least one occasion, compared with males who never share meat with them.

The findings indicated that sharing meat with females improves a male’s mating success, according to the study published in the journal PLoS ONE.

“Our results strongly suggest that wild chimpanzees exchange meat for sex, doing so on a long-term basis. Males who shared meat with females doubled their mating success, whereas females, who had difficulty obtaining meat on their own, increased their caloric intake, without suffering the energetic costs and potential risk of injury related to hunting,” Gomes wrote.

“Previous studies might not have found a relationship between mating success and meat sharing because they focussed on short-term exchanges; or perhaps because in those groups access to females was driven by male coercion so females rarely chose their mating partners,” Gomes added.

The findings go a long way toward answering the question of how females choose their mating partners and why males hunt and share meat with them.

Evidence from studies on human hunter-gatherer societies suggest that men, who are more successful hunters, have more wives and a larger number of offspring.

Studies of wild chimpanzees, humans’ closest living relative, have shown that male hunters frequently share meat with females who did not participate in the hunt.

One of the hypotheses proposed to explain these findings is the meat-for-sex hypothesis, whereby males and females exchange meat for mating access. However, there had been little evidence in both humans and chimpanzees to support it - until now.

“Our findings add to the ever-growing evidence suggesting that chimpanzees can think in the past and the future and that this influences their present behaviour,” Boesch concluded.

“These findings are bound to have an impact on our current knowledge about relationships between men and women; and similar studies will determine if the direct nutritional benefits that women receive from hunters in human hunter-gatherer societies could also be driving the relationship between reproductive success and good hunting skills,” Gomes concluded.

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