A bit on Chimpanzee kin selection, especially brother-brother relations

In chimpanzee communities, it pays to be close with your maternal brethren, according to a brand new publication in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The large chimpanzee population at Ngogo in Kibale National Park, Uganda, was studied for this research paper both thru behavioral and molecular approaches. I’m assuming the molecular techniques were used to trace pedigrees and lineages.

The specific scope of the research was to assess the kinship relations among male chimpanzees in this population. From the abstract of paper, the research,

“show[s] that male chimpanzees clearly prefer to affiliate and cooperate with their maternal brothers in several behavioral contexts. Despite these results, additional analyses reveal that the impact of kinship is limited; paternal brothers do not selectively affiliate and cooperate, probably because they cannot be reliably recognized, and the majority of highly affiliative and cooperative dyads are actually unrelated or distantly related. These findings add to a growing body of research that indicates that animals cooperate with each other to obtain both direct and indirect fitness benefits and that complex cooperation can occur between kin and nonkin alike.”

What does that mean? We already knew chimpanzee social structure is highly maternal and usually dominant mother chimps raise dominant sons. Well this research adds to this, indicating that sons, or ‘princes’ if you may, establish a network to dominate hierarchy over the population they preside… sorta like a chimpanzee royalty.

I’m a bit uncertain about the statement on how paternal brothers can’t identify one another… On one level, this seems logical. Its very improbable to know “who your daddy is” in a chimpanzee troop. But, a chimpanzee intimately knows his or her mother, because she reared him or her. However chimpanzees have a very high intellectual capacity, and I’m thinking they know at some level who fathered them. I won’t be willing to bet my life savings, but it is very probable.

If you would like to read more about the article, please check it out under this title and link, “The limited impact of kinship on cooperation in wild chimpanzees.” One last note, I’m not surprised this fieldwork & molecular 1,2 combo came from the primatological powerhouse that is Max Planck Institute’s department for Evolutionary Anthropology, are you?

2 thoughts on “A bit on Chimpanzee kin selection, especially brother-brother relations

  1. You say:

    “I’m a bit uncertain about the statement on how paternal brothers can’t identify one another… On one level, this seems logical. Its very improbable to know “who your daddy is” in a chimpanzee troop”

    It does seem illogical, but even in humans the irrationality continues. There are many human ethnic groups where they will say, “If your Mother belongs to “ethnic/religious group x,” then you are “group x” regardless of your beliefs or fealty to the ritual requirements of the group. “You’re a ‘blank’ if your Mother is a ‘blank’.” The discrimination and emotional intensity is beyond anything rational. Therefore, this must be a vestigial instinct from our evolutionary ancestors.

  2. The thing is : chimpanzees are promiscuous. So, no pair-bond. Therefore, a chimpanzee cannot know who his father is. It’s got nothing to do with intellectual capacity. The mother herself doesn’t know who is the father.

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