Get Regular Updates!
Search
|Bonobos support each other while giving birth

Earth

image|

Elisa Demuru

Bonobos support each other while giving birth

Bonobos support each other while giving birth

A new study found a very human-like behaviour among bonobos when it comes to giving birth.

Bonobos support each other while giving birth

Humans are unique among mammals or any other species in many ways. For example, we are the only species known to cook food, use fire, wear clothes or use such complex language.

We are also unique in that we tend to our births. In humans, giving birth is a difficult and risky task, so when mum is ready to give birth, company is usually nearby. No other species, not even among our closest relatives chimpanzees and bonobos, are known to help mothers-to-be give birth. That is until now.

A new study found, for the first time, evidence that bonobos also share this human trait of accompanying mums-to-be during labour.

Video|BBC
This isn’t the first time we have observed similarities between humans and bonobos.

A lucky find

Bonobos’ births are difficult to observe, as they usually happen at night, so the discovery of this new behaviour occurred by pure chance, says Elisa Demuru, first author of the study.

“I was collecting behavioural data on other topics—I was staying several months in each park—and I had the chance to be there for the deliveries and to film them. I was very lucky!” she says.

Starting in 2009, Elisa recorded three births at two European primate parks. In all three cases, the females were not isolated but were accompanied by the other females of their group, with the dominant females being on the first line.

“These females stayed near the mother, followed her, protected her by keeping males away, and some of them even performed gestures aimed at holding the baby during birth,” Elisa said.

A paradigm shift

These findings challenge our current knowledge about birth in non-human primates.

“The main result of this study is that birth attendance is present in a species other than humans and that it is provided by females,” Elisa says.

A mother bonobo will keep her baby close…
. Credit: Elisa Demuru
View Larger
Image |

Elisa Demuru

A mother bonobo will keep her baby close…
…But will also choose to be among friends
. Credit: Elisa Demuru
View Larger
Image |

Elisa Demuru

…But will also choose to be among friends

An important fact about bonobos is that females don’t actually need any help in giving birth. They are perfectly able to do it on their own, Elisa explains. Mothers just seem to prefer the company of other females during their difficult task. This might be related to the bonobos’ peculiar social behaviour.

“Females are strongly bonded, even if they are not kin, and they really form strong alliances and support each other. I think this sociality explains the social dynamics I observed during the deliveries,” Elisa says.

Such social bonds are unlikely to be found in our other close relatives the chimpanzees.

“In chimpanzees, females are far more solitary, and they tend to isolate themselves as birth approaches, probably also to avoid the risk of infanticide , which has been observed in chimps but never in bonobos,” she adds.

View Larger
Image|Elisa Demuru
Mother and baby bonobo shortly after birth

Now Elisa plans to do more research to understand the social interactions that occur during primate births—which is no easy task.

“You need to know things like social bonding, hierarchy, kinship among all group members to try to explain what you observed during the delivery, and this requires long-term observations,” Elisa says.

But her results so far do show one thing: humans and bonobos are not so different from each other after all.

Vital science VIDEO

Republish

Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.

Guidelines

You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.

Images

Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.

Video

All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.

Contact

For more information about using our content, email us: particle@scitech.org.au

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy

We've got chemistry. Want something physical?