The Loh Down On Science

What chimps share will shock you just a little

Kelly Kerr / USA Today / AP

Can you make new friends by … sharing bushmeat?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying:

Yes!  If you’re a chimp!

Chimpanzees sometimes voluntarily share food with others … premium goodies like monkey meat.  It’s a crazy thing for a hungry ape to do.  Then why do it? 

Meet Roman Wittig and Catherine Crockford from the University of Saint Andrews.  They collected urine samples from chimps in Uganda.  How?  From piddle pooled on leaves and such.  Why?  To look for physiological clues that might explain the behavior.  Is sharing calming and sexually arousing?  Hormones in pee don’t lie. 

And?  The level of one hormone was consistently elevated in chimps right after sharing.  What was it?  Oxytocin! – the same feel-good stuff released in a mother breastfeeding her baby.  And its levels spiked in both sharer and share-ee.  So?  Meeting for lunch gives both parties a healthy dose of Love Drug.  And they bond.  Awww!

It helps explain random friendships and cooperation in chimp society.  And, by extension, in humans.  

So don't hog that monkey meat, buddy.  Hand it over.  You'll thank me later.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


blog comments powered by Disqus