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Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Chimps Trade Meat for Sex -- And It Works
Nick Wadhams in Nairobi, Kenya
for National Geographic News
April 7, 2009
The time-honored tradition of the dinner date may be just one more example of evolution at work.Wild male chimps that share meat with females double their chances of having sex with those females, a new study says. The findings support a long-held hypothesis that food sharing improves male chimpanzees' chances of mating.
Sagu, an adult male chimpanzee, holds the rib case of a red colobus monkey he caught. Wild male chimps that share their meat with females double their chances of having sex with those females, a March 2009 study says.
Studies had long shown that male chimpanzees shared meat with females, which don't typically hunt. The reason for the meat sharing, however, was a mystery—though perhaps not too tough to guess.
Males observed in the West African nation of Ivory Coast shared monkey meat with females that exhibited the pink swellings on their rear ends that indicate ovulation and sexual availability. (Related: "Butts, Faces Help Chimps Identify Friends.")
More surprising was that males shared meat with females that didn't have sexual swellings, perhaps in hopes of future success, the researchers say.
The sex "may not necessarily occur immediately—it could occur sometime in the future," said study co-author Cristina M. Gomes, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.
Meat is generally a rare treat for chimps, whose diet consists mainly of fruits and vegetables.
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