Humans Aren't The Only Species With Best Friends -- Chimpanzees Have Them Too

  • Mary Nichols , Design & Trend Contributor
  • Jan, 19, 2016, 10:53 PM
Tags : science, news
(Photo : Getty Images/Cameron Spencer) Scientists have found that chimpanzees have a similar relationship to their best friends as humans do.

Scientists have found that chimpanzees have a similar relationship to their best friends as humans - with trust being a key factor.

A new study suggests that chimps generally trust their best friends to share their snacks with. However, the same behavior does not necessarily apply to acquaintances, writes Stuff.

Researchers suggest that the development of trust could date back a long way in the evolutionary history of human relationships, scientists say.

Trusting others allows individuals to work together - cooperating to ensure the survival of the species.

Chimpanzees have long been seen to establish strong bonds with other chimpanzees, with those relationships resembling human friendships.

Jan Maxim Engelmann and Esther Herrmann of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany set out to determine whether trust played a role in their relationships with each other.

Four research assistants were sent to the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya, where they observed 15 chimps over a period of five months.

They noted how much time the chimps spent grooming one another, touching each other and eating together. Using their observations, they determined which of the chimpanzees had formed close friendships and which chimps had not formed these relationships.

The chimps were then taught how to play a game to measure how much trust existed between the chimps. Two chimps were placed on either side of a device containing boxes of food. One box contained two pieces of banana, while the other box contained three pieces of banana and three pieces of apply - the latter of which was considered a better snack.

The chimps were faced with a choice: to take the average snack, or to give the better snack to the other chimp. If the chimp chose the selfless option - giving the other chimp the better snack - the chimp could be rewarded and offered some of the better snack in turn.

As the researchers explained, if the chimp chose to give the better snack to the other chimp - it could be interpreted as an act of trust - by trusting that the other chimp would return the favor and share some of the snack.In order to get the snacks, the chimps had to pull a series of ropes to send boxes of food back and forth.

The chimps were given 12 opportunities to decide when paired with their closest friend and an additional 12 turns with their the member of the group they had the least to do with.

During the game, the researchers observed that 11 of the 14 chimps were more likely to choose the better snack option when playing with their closest friend. Two of the remaining chimps were equally likely to share their snack with their closest friend as with their most distant acquaintance. Only one chimpanzee chose to share the snack with his acquaintance as opposed to his best friend.

"Chimpanzees trust their friends more than their non-friends," Engelmann and Herrmann concluded. "This finding provides evidence that chimpanzees, like humans, evolved robust forms of trust toward their close social partners, which might allow them to forge cooperative relationships."

Engelmann, who specializes in studying cooperative social relationships, said the experiments suggest that humans perhaps a bit less special than we may think.

"Human friendships do not represent an anomaly in the animal kingdom," he said in a statement.

The study was published in the journal Current Biology.

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