Chimpanzee police settle quarrel

Evolutionary preform of moral behavior observed in apes

Above all, high-ranking group members settle a dispute. © Claudia Rudolf von Rohr
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Chimpanzees are interested in cohesion and know different strategies to ensure stability in their group. Zurich researchers have now shown that chimpanzees settle arguments between other "team members", not for their own immediate benefit, but to preserve peace in the group.

The impartial intervention of the arbitrators in differences can be regarded as an evolutionary preform of moral behavior, according to the researchers in the journal "PLoS ONE".

Good conflict management important

Wherever lived together, there is also a dispute. This is no different with our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, than with us humans. Good conflict management is crucial for group cohesion. Even in chimpanzees, individuals ensure peace and order in their clans. This form of conflict management is called "policing" - the impartial intervention of a third party in a dispute of others.

Until now, this morally motivated behavior was only anecdotally documented in chimpanzees. Primatologists at the University of Zurich are now proving that chimpanzees engage in an impartial dispute to ensure the stability of their group. They thus show prosocial behavior based on an interest in the common good.

Chimpanzees are interested in the common good. © Claudia Rudolf von Rohr

The more arguing, the more policing

The willingness of the mediators to intervene impartially is greatest when several thieves participate in a dispute, for such conflicts are particularly dangerous for group peace. The researchers observed and compared the behavior of four different non-living chimpanzee clans. display

At the Walter Zoo in Gossau they encountered special circumstances: We were fortunate that we were allowed to observe a group of chimpanzees, to which new females came and in which the order of merit among the M nnchen was discharged. The stability of the group staggered. This also happens in the wilderness, explains Claudia Rudolf von Rohr, first author of the study.

High ranking dispute mediators

Not every chimpanzee is suitable as a mediator. Above all, high-ranking males and females, according to the scientists, engage in a dispute - or animals that enjoy great respect in the group. Otherwise, the chimpanzee police would not be able to end the conflict successfully. As with humans, there are also authorities among chimpanzees.

InteresseThe interest in the common good, which is highly developed in us humans, and which is fundamental to our moral behavior, has deep roots. It can also be observed with our closest relatives, "Rudolf von Rohr summarizes the new results. (PLoS ONE, 2012; doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0032494)

(University of Zurich, 08.03.2012 - DLO)