Darwin-L Message Log 8:72 (April 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

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<8:72>From princeh@husc.harvard.edu  Thu Apr 21 18:54:54 1994

Date: Thu, 21 Apr 1994 19:03:20 -0400 (EDT)
From: Patricia Princehouse <princeh@husc.harvard.edu>
Subject: Re: chimps & sex
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

On Mon, 18 Apr 1994, Lerner wrote:

> John H. Langdon wrote:
> 	>> Chimps, however, exibit harem behaviour, not "one night stand"
> 	  behaviour.
>     >Your statement contradicts received wisdom.
> Hmmm. Let me check my sources again on this point.

I'd be very interested in a reference for any wild population of chimps
that showed a harem structure. I've heard the claim made that the high
degree of relatedness of males in multimale groups amounted to the same
thing as harems for the purposes of molecular evolution, but not that
anyone claimed this socioecological structure for them.

Every case I've heard of was multimale-multifemale, with greater
cooperation among males (who are virtually always closely related). As I
recall this is the case not only for the Gombe chimps but also the Ivory
Coast ones studied by Bosch & Bosch.

And, of course, in multimale-multifemale groups of bonobos (pygmy chimps)
reports indicate not only promiscuous behavior by males & females
individually but also high levels of same-sex sexual activity (especially
between females) and extended bouts of sexual activity in small groups
composed of several males and females, also non-penetration sexual
activity with juveniles. There's a good article on this in _Discover_
magazine from I think June about 2 years ago by Meredith Small of Cornell
entitled "What's love got to do with it?".

I'm no great fan of sociobiology but am intrigued by the
sociobiological/adaptive argument for bonobo sexual behavior - that the
high level of sexual activity is not directly related to the reproductive
benefits of competing individuals but that benefits of greater group
coherence promote selection for the genes responsible for these behaviors.
I don't remember if Meredith said anything about it in the article but
I've heard numerous times in conversation (eg at anth meetings) that the
bonobo example helps explain human penis size as the result of sexual
selection (ie evidently bonobos have larger penises than common chimps and
use them as visual cues in displays for initiating sexual activity & use
many visual displays, often hand signals, mostly having to do with food &

Patricia Princehouse

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