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German study shows chimps trade sex for food

AFP · 8 Apr 2009, 16:27

Published: 08 Apr 2009 16:27 GMT+02:00

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A study by scientists from the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig has shown that female chimpanzees are more likely to mate with males who share food with them – findings that could shed light on relationships in primitive human societies.

"We show that wild female chimpanzees copulate more frequently with those males that, over a period of 22 months, share meat with them," said Cristina Gomes, the author of the study. The results of the research, published in the journal PLoS One, "strongly suggest that wild chimpanzees exchange meat for sex, and do so on a long-term basis," she said.

Gomes and her team studied the mating patterns of a group of 49 chimps in Ivory Coast for three years and also monitored whenever males shared the proceeds of their hunt with females.

"We found that females copulated more frequently with males who shared meat with them at least on one occasion, than with males who never shared meat with them, indicating that sharing meat with females improved a males' mating success," the report said.

The researchers believe the findings could shed light on human relationships in primitive "foraging" societies.

"These findings are bound to have an impact on our current knowledge about relationships between men and women," Gomes said.

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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, the scientists added.

Gomes said she wanted to conduct further research on primitive humans to see whether there is also a link between "reproductive success and good hunting skills."

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