The way to a chimps’ heart is through their stomachs

Why do we as critters of the human kind like companionship with other human critters?

Human critters have had biological success because we have been able to form long-term cooperative relationships with unrelated individuals. How and why that all works on an evolutionary reason is complex. The hormone oxytocin, however, plays a role in that longing for companionship. Our oxytocin levels go up when we kiss or hug someone.

Now researchers at the Max Planck Institute have found that with wild chimpanzees, their oxytocin levels rise as well after they share meals. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany measured the urinary oxytocin levels of wild chimps. Those who had shared a meal had elevated levels compared to those who didn’t share meals together.

Does other shared activities do the same? Apparently not, according to the researchers. Ocytocin levels were higher after sharing meals than after grooming suggesting that shared meal times played a more important role in social bonding than other social activities. 

Photo credit: Roman M. Wittig / Taï Chimpanzee Project


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