Abstract # 131:

Scheduled for Sunday, September 14, 2014 04:15 PM-04:30 PM: Session 20 (Henry Oliver) Oral Presentation


MAKE-UP SEX: THE ROLE OF POST-CONFLICT SEXUAL CONTACTS IN SEMI-FREE BONOBOS, PAN PANSICUS

Z. Clay1 and F. de Waal2
1Institute de Biologie, Université de Neuchatel, Neuchatel, Switzerland 2000, USA, 2Emory University, Atlanta
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     In bonobos (Pan pansicus), sexual contacts are thought to play a key role in regulating social tension, and are especially common following social conflicts. Nevertheless, research on the factors determining post-conflict sexual contacts and their effectiveness in reducing social tension remains scarce. To investigate the role of sexual contacts in regulating social conflicts, we observed post-conflict affiliation in bonobos occurring between former opponents (reconciliation) and offered by bystanders towards victims (consolation). We examined whether post-conflict sexual contacts: (1) alleviate stress, (2) offer reproductive benefits, (3) mediate food-related conflicts and (4) repair valuable social bonds. 36 bonobos of all ages were observed over 6 months at Lola-ya-Bonobo Sanctuary, DRCongo, using standardized Post-Conflict/Matched Control methods. Across 237 post-conflict events, both consolation and reconciliation were characterized by significant increases in sexual behaviours (P < 0.001), with reconciliation almost exclusively characterized as sexual in nature. Adults engaged in post-conflict sexual contacts significantly more than younger bonobos (P = 0.019). Consistent with the stress-alleviation hypothesis, victims receiving sexual consolatory contact showed significantly lower rates of self-scratching, a marker of stress in primates, compared to non-sexual contact (P = 0.009). Post-conflict sexual contacts did not confer obvious reproductive benefits, were not targeted towards valuable social partners; nor were they used to mediate food-related conflicts. Overall, results highlight the role sex plays in regulating tension following social conflicts in bonobos.