It was tempting to title this post: “What do most people suspect that some primate researchers can’t?” Naw.
New research from an international coalition of ape researchers, published September 18 in the journal Nature, has shed new light on the subject, suggesting that human encroachment and interference is not, as previous researchers have claimed, an influential predictor of chimp-on-chimp aggression.
The study began as a response to a growing number of commentators claiming that chimpanzee violence was caused by human impacts. “This is an important question to get right. If we are using chimpanzees as a model for understanding human violence, we need to know what really causes chimpanzees to be violent,” said University of Minnesota researcher Michael L. Wilson, lead author on the study.
A team of 30 ape researchers assembled extensive data sets spanning five decades of research gathered from 18 chimpanzee communities experiencing varying degrees of human influence. In all, data included pattern analysis of 152 killings by chimpanzees. The key findings indicate that a majority of violent attackers and victims of attack are male chimpanzees, and the information is consistent with the theory that these acts of violence are driven by adaptive fitness benefits rather than human impacts.
“Wild chimpanzee communities are often divided into two broad categories depending on whether they exist in pristine or human disturbed environments,” explained Morgan. “In reality, however, human disturbance can occur along a continuum and study sites included in this investigation spanned the spectrum. We found human impact did not predict the rate of killing among communities.
Now that they can assign a proposed Darwinian cause, “adaptive fitness benefits,” they can let go of a genuinely crackpot cause, human impacts.
In reality chimpanzees are probably violent by nature, whether it is adaptive or not. If life forms are inclined to violence, they will behave that way, and the outcome is whatever happens.
This article, by a chimp trainer’s daughter, may be of interest here.
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