Dr. Zanna Clay and Dr. Frans de Waal, both with Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University, are the first to definitively demonstrate that bonobos exhibit human-like consoling behaviors and emotional control in the Oct. 14, 2013, edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.
Bonobos (Pan paniscus) are a close relative to humans.
The researchers observed the behaviors of bonobos that were reared by their mothers and orphan bonobos that were the result of the pet trade or illegal bush-meat hunting. The juvenile bonobos all resided in a forested sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Both groups of juvenile bonobos were observed to be able to cope with their own distress after fights as determined by the length of screaming each bonobo evinced after losing a fight. The bonobos were also observed to actively participate in consoling behaviors like touching, stroking, kissing, and embracing.
Bonobos reared by their own mothers or surrogate human mothers were found to be more competent in dealing with their own distress and in participating in consoling behaviors for other distressed bonobos than orphan bonobos were.
The research is the first to demonstrate a very human-like emotional behavior in bonobos and may indicate an evolutionary motif that is heritable in humans considering that juvenile humans raised by their mothers are more emotionally in control of themselves than juvenile humans that have little parental guidance.