Female Bonobos Flaunt Same-Sex Encounters to Boost Social Status

Female bonobos make the most noise during sex with other females when the “alpha female” is nearby, scientists say

By Natalie Musumeci
|  Friday, Mar 2, 2012  |  Updated 8:13 AM PDT
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Female Bonobos Flaunt Same-Sex Encounters to Boost Social Status

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Low-ranking female bonobos apes use their sexual encounters with more higher-ranking females of the group to raise social status.

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Researchers studying communication among the bi-sexual ape species Bonobos discovered that females exerted the most noise during sex if the “alpha female” was present, the BBC reported.

Low-ranking females that were courted to have sex with the more high-ranking females of the group would often make loud calls or boast about their sexual rendezvous to other bonobos, according to findings published in Scientific Reports.

Experts found that the females use their purely sexual ties to the more dominant female bonobos to boost their social status giving them more social power over other group members.

The species uses their sexual interactions as a form of maintaining and developing social relationships, Dr. Zanna Clay, of Emory University in Atlanta, told the BBC.

Bonobos, often referred to as “erotic” or “promiscuous apes,” appear to be highly knowledgeable of the strong dynamics that control their female-dominated world.

"It's all about climbing up the social ladder for female bonobos," Clay told the BBC.

Clay, who has been studying the vocalizations of this highly sexual species for five years, led an international team of researchers to a bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa where they observed these patterns during female-female sex.

"[Sex] is used to reduce stress and competition, develop affiliations, express and test social relationships and for reconciling conflicts and consoling victims in distress," Clay told the BBC.
 

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