In 1719, Daniel Defoe wrote in Robinson Crusoe, ”He declar’d he had reserv’d nothing from the Men, and went Share and Share alike with them in every Bit they eat.” Defoe’s famous sharing phrase has persisted throughout the years, passing from parent to child as a lesson on the virtues of sharing with family, peers and even strangers.
But in the context of evolution and survival of the fittest, sharing makes no sense. Until now, scientists assumed that humans alone subscribed to this behavior, especially when it comes to sharing with strangers, and wrote the trait off as a quirk stemming from our unique cognitive and social development.
Sure, primatologists know that great apes help and voluntarily share food with other group mates (acts that indirectly benefits themselves). But strangers? Such a behavior is unheard of amidst species that often compete aggressively with other groups and even murder foreign individuals.
Researchers from Duke University decided to challenge the great ape’s bad sharing rep, seeking to discover whether or not our furry relatives may also have a propensity for partitioning goods with animals they do not know. The scientists chose bonobos–a type of great ape sometimes referred to as a pygmy chimpanzee–for their study. Compared to chimpanzees, bonobos possess a relatively high tolerance for strangers, so they seemed like a logical candidate for investigations into the nature of sharing.
Written By: Rachel Nuwercontinue to source article at blogs.smithsonianmag.com