Nature: Bisexual female bonobos make prolonged eye contact during sex to form intimate social bonds

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To help forge social bonds with other females, bisexual female bonobos make prolonged eye contact when engaging in sexual acts, according to a study.

Researchers studied the role of eye contact in the socio-sexual behavior of 17 bonobos at the Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany.

They found that the less two female bonobos know each other, the more they will try to make eye contact during sex, highlighting how these primates bond.

Female bonobos develop bonds with each other in order to build a social power which they use to assert themselves against the males of the species.

Bonobo monkeys are our closest animal relatives – with a 98 percent genetic match – and are frequently used in research into how we evolved as a species.

Sex in bonobos is not gender specific – experts believe almost all monkeys are bisexual, and up to 75 percent of their sex is non-reproductive.

To help forge social bonds with other females, bisexual female bonobos make prolonged eye contact when engaging in sexual acts, according to a study.

The study was undertaken by biologist Giulia Annicchiarico of the University of Pisa, Italy, and her colleagues.

‘Female [bonobos] engage in homosexual ventro-ventral and genito-genital rubbing in which they kiss while rubbing part of their vulva and, sometimes, the clitoris, ”the team wrote in their article.

Face-to-face sexual positions – or “ventro-ventral” – have long been considered exclusive to the human sex, but are appreciated by bonobos of both sexes, whether in female-female, female-male or male couples. male.

“Ventro-ventral and genito-genital friction facilitates conflict resolution, anxiety reduction and social bonding. “

Ms Annicchiarico added: “We found that the EEC was negatively affected by female bonding – the more eye contact, the weaker the social relationship.”

“My scientific interests are primarily in this sphere of behavior that was once thought to be exclusively human – emotions, empathy and altruistic behavior as well as non-verbal communication,” she continued.

Research like this can shed light on the similarities between human behavior and the behavior of apes – and how eye contact also affects similar interactions in human social dynamics.

Researchers investigated the role of eye contact in socio-sexual behavior, pictured, of 17 bonobos at Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany

Researchers investigated the role of eye contact in socio-sexual behavior, pictured, of 17 bonobos at Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany

They found that the less two female bonobos know each other, the more they will try to make eye contact during sex - highlighting how these primates, pictured, bond.

They found that the less two female bonobos know each other, the more they will try to make eye contact during sex – highlighting how these primates, pictured, bond.

“Great apes, in my opinion, can tell us a lot about why we are what we are, why we act a certain way and might suggest different behavioral strategies as well,” commented Ms Annicchiarico.

Although much work has been done on eye contact between primates, it has traditionally focused more on the interactions between parents and their infants.

Researchers have found that eye contact has a positive influence on “performance” success and is key to long-term relationship success – its importance becoming less important as a given relationship develops.

Female bonobos develop bonds with each other in order to build social power, which they use to assert themselves against the males of the species.

Female bonobos develop bonds with each other in order to build social power, which they use to assert themselves against the males of the species.

The bonobo uses sex at all ages and in all combinations, as the need for peaceful coexistence is not limited to heterosexual adult couples.

Researchers have found that female homosexual behavior is particularly common and occurs very frequently – in fact, several times a day.

Sexual acts serve to reduce social tensions between monkeys and are most often seen in times of high stress, such as before and during competition for food, and after conflict, as reconciling behavior.

Some bonobos even seem to provoke each other to initiate sex in response.

According to Ms. Annicchiarico, there is no linear hierarchy in bonobo society – which is matriarchal – so they rely on flexible models of domination, in which social power is dispersed within the group.

Eye contact is an evolutionary trait that has been positively selected to enable cohesion between women, who gain social bonds and power through sexual contact, the team concluded.

Social power among bonobos is held by those who form the strongest coalitions, which has probably evolved as a strategy to resist attacks from men, who tend to be more isolationist.

The full results of the study have been published in the journal Behviour.

HOMOSEXUALITY IN ANIMALS

Homosexuality in nature seems counterintuitive but is seen in a range of species around the world.

There is as yet no accepted explanation based on neurological, chemical or behavioral factors as to why some animals are homosexual and some or heterosexual.

Some scientists say this may be due to exposure to testosterone levels in the womb, although this remains a hotly debated topic that has yet to be proven.

In a book titled: “Homosexual Behavior in Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective,” the author, UCL professor Dr. Volker Sommer, writes: “Within a number of species, the Homosexual activity is widespread and occurs at levels that approach or sometimes even exceed heterosexuality. activity.’

Homosexual behaviors have been observed in many animals, including: macaques, dwarf chimpanzees, dolphins, orcas, and humans.

Some studies claim that homosexuality can be common, as it is present in up to 95% of all animal species.

There are two main schools of thought regarding the prevalence of homosexuality in nature.

One theory claims that homosexuality in animals needs no explanation, as animals are homosexual just as naturally as they are heterosexual.

It seems irrational that it survives as a trait because it hampers the ability to procreate directly, but many believe that it allows individuals to ensure that their genetic material is passed down indirectly to generations as they are able to care for them. family members with their offspring.

For example, helping to raise the offspring of a sister.

Similar behavior dedicated to the “greater good” of a large group has been observed in various species.

For example, in family packs of wolves, only one pair of animals reproduces – alpha and beta. The other animals provide protection, food and litter rearing.

This allows their genetic material to indirectly pass to the next generation through their sister, brother, mother, etc. or whatever the relationship.

The same school of thought applies to animals that are past their breeding age.

For example, female elephants who are now too old to have offspring.

They still play a crucial role in protecting the young, and the matriarch leads the group to places of food, water and hunting for potential predators.

These actions ensure the survival of young and vulnerable members of his family, once again helping to ensure that his genetic material is passed on indirectly from generation to generation.

A similar concept can be applied to homosexuality, some experts say.

Without the ability to reproduce directly, they are able to expend energy on caring for the offspring of their family members.

Another theory claims that homosexual behaviors contribute to successful long-term gene transmission, as young animals “practice” mating techniques and ways to attract a member of the opposite sex.

The rates of homosexuality in different species remain unknown, as ongoing research finds more nuance in the nature of homosexuality.

It continues to be found in more species, but the level of homosexuality in individual species is not sufficiently studied to be able to determine whether homosexuality is becoming more and more common.


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