Sharing meat after hunting and exchanging other valued food items is considered key in the evolution of cooperation in human societies. One prominent idea is that humans share valuable foods to gain future favors, such that those we chose to share with are more likely to cooperate with us in the future. Despite regularly occurring in humans, sharing food outside of kinship or mating relationships is rare in non-human animals. Our two closest living relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, are two of the rare exceptions, and because of the important role of food sharing in human evolution, examining the sharing patterns of chimpanzees can help to answer questions on how sharing food amongst adults evolved and how it may have shaped human cooperation.
Neutered cats who share quarters often share food, as a matter of fact, simply because they don’t feel threatened.
Fighting, after all, is a lot of work and maybe nothing much is at stake.
But, researchers, do go on.
Researchers from the MPI-EVA observed natural food sharing behavior of the chimpanzees of the Tai National Park, Ivory Coast, and found that chimpanzees are very selective in who they share desirable food items, like meat, honey or large fruits, with. They show that chimpanzees were more likely to share food with their friends, and that neither high dominance status nor harassment by beggars influenced their decision. This complements results from another study by the same team published last month that examined meat sharing after group hunting of monkeys. There they found that chimpanzees in possession of meat after successful hunts were likely to reward other hunters by sharing with them. “Collectively our research shows that the chimpanzees decide when to share food based on the likelihood that this favor will be returned in the future,” says Liran Samuni, first author of both studies. “Or, in case of sharing after group hunts, sharing of meat is returning the favor for helping out.”
It could be simpler than that for the chimps. Chimps who did not seem threatening to each other had shared food in the past. When a similar situation arose, they behaved socially in the same way. It’s not clear that they need any kind of complex calculus to go on behaving this way.
Previous studies in another subspecies of chimpanzees have suggested that food sharing in chimpanzees mainly occurs because of harassment pressure from beggars. “This was not the case for the Tai chimpanzees,” Catherine Crockford, senior author on the studies, points out, “emphasizing the high variation in cooperation across chimpanzee populations.” Human populations also vary in how cooperative they are and research is ongoing in both humans and non-human animals assessing what might make some populations more cooperative than others. “The need to stay in a cohesive unit, because of high predation pressure, or the capability to exhibit strong cohesion, because of rich food sources, are two possible scenarios to promote the expression of cooperative acts,” suggests Roman Wittig, the second senior author of the studies.
How about: Cooperation varies because of the variation in the extent to which the chimpanzees (or cats, for that matter) feel threatened?
And finally, the punch line:
The researchers conclude that like humans, Tai chimpanzee sharing is selective, and that friends and others that helped acquiring the food benefit more. Emotional connection, as is obvious amongst friends, likely played a crucial role in the evolution of human cooperation. – L. Samuni, A. Preis, A. Mielke, T. Deschner, R. M. Wittig, C. Crockford. Social bonds facilitate cooperative resource sharing in wild chimpanzees. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2018; 285 (1888): 20181643 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.1643 Paper. (paywall) More.
Why do these people have such an obsession about discovering the true origin of sharing among humans?
They are trying to develop a model for why humans share without referencing abstract thinking, hence moral precepts, of any kind. It won’t work and it gets both humans and animals wrong. But there are doubtless thousands of papers in this racket anyway.
The fundamental error committed by these researchers, aside from banality, is the equation of human will with animal passions. Will and passion are qualitatively, not just quantitively, different.
Both humans and animals have passions. Passions have a basis in material processes—brain pathways, neurotransmitters, and the like. Passions can be categorized as concupiscible and irascible. Concupiscible passions include love and hate, desire and aversion, and joy and sadness. Irascible passions include hope and despair, fear and daring, and anger. Both animals and humans have passions, which are based in material processes in the brain. It is in this sense that animal studies may cast some light on human passions.
But, in addition to material passions, humans have will. Will differs utterly from passion and animals lack it. That is because will follows on intellect, which is the human ability to think abstractly. More.
Look on the bright side: At least the need for research subjects forces them to campaign for chimpanzee sanctuaries, which is likely the most useful thing they’ll do.
See also: PBS: Apes’ inability to use symbolic language may just be “nurture”
Intelligence tests unfair to apes?
Researchers: Chimpanzees spontaneously take turns,maybe that explains duets