Wild Animals/Primates


Are bonobo males still competitive over females or is it the females that compete over males? In sexual selection it's usually the females that choose and the males have to compete. But is this true for animals where the female is dominate as in bonobos?

Dear Adam

Thank you for your question. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

Please note there is some confusion in bonobo behaviour, as bonobos indulge in sexual activity for various reasons, not just reproduction.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonobo says females may engage in mutual genital behaviour to bond socially with each other and form a female nucleus of bonobo society, which lets them dominate most males and have a higher social status in bonobo society. A male derives his status from the status of his mother. Bonobos do not seem to discriminate in their sexual behaviour by sex or age, but mothers may abstain from sexual activity with their adult sons. http://eol.org/pages/326448/details#reproduction says any other male may approach an oestrous female, which is generally receptive and moves toward a male to allow copulation. As many males court oestrous females, paternity is generally unknown to both partners. http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/bonobo/behav says if a male does not know which offspring are his, he is less likely to invest any time or energy caring for them, so mothers assume the entirety of parental care in bonobos is assumed by the mothers (de Waal 1997).  and females take on most of the parental roles.

This indicates that males choose which females to mate with, but oestrous females do not seem to be choosy. This means that both sexes have multiple partners and there is no real need for male competition, as they can find a willing partner and perhaps wait to mate with the most desirable female. Also, as a male generally doesn't whether he is the father of a particular infant, it doesn't really matter which female he fertilises.

All the best


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Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


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