AC Narrator: Bonobos are unique among great apes because they are not dominated by males. And according to Brian Hare, a Duke University evolutionary anthropologist who studies them at Lola, it’s the females who run the show.
Brian Hare: Here if you try to be in – an alpha male, you will be, as the Congolese say, “corrected” by the females.
Anderson Cooper: Not just by one female, but by a sort of alliance of females?
Brian Hare: That’s right. That’s right. And one of the – they – they – bonobos really violate a rule of nature where usually if you’re bigger, you're going to be dominant. But here, females are actually smaller. But they’re still not dominated by males because they work together.
AC Narrator: What’s more, bonobos have never been observed to kill each other. The same can’t be said of chimpanzees, or of humans for that matter.
Brian Hare: Bonobos, on the other hand, they don’t really have that darker side. So that’s where they could really help us is how could it be that a species that has a brain a third of the size of ours can do something that with all our technological prowess we can’t accomplish? Which is to not kill each other.
AC Narrator: The answer might be found in bonobos’ favorite pastime. These apes have more sex, more often, in more ways than any other primate on the planet. Their sexual contact is so frequent, Brian Hare refers to it as the “Bonobo Handshake”...
Anderson Cooper: It’s not that they want to procreate or have kids, it’s not that they even find each other attractive?
Brian Hare: No.
Anderson Cooper: It’s – it’s just –
Brian Hare: No, it’s a negotiation.
AC Narrator: And it’s hardly surprising that many of these negotiations take place over food.
Anderson Cooper: Chimpanzees will fight each other over food.
Brian Hare: That’s right. They—
Anderson Cooper: Bonobos won’t necessarily fight each other—
Brian Hare: That’s right. So they – so, basically, chimpanzees get primed for competition, testosterone increases. Bonobos, they get really stressed out. And if they feel like they’re not going to be able to share, they get really anxious, and then that drives them to want to be reassured. And they then happen to have a bonobo handshake to feel better.
Anderson Cooper: And males do that with females, males will do that with males, females will do that with females, doesn’t matter, even the ages?
Brian Hare: Any combination. Any age.