, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 469-480

Social play and sexual behavior of the bonobo (Pan paniscus) with special reference to flexibility

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The social play behavior of the bonobo, or pygmy chimpanzee, was studied in a provisioned group at Wamba, Zaire. Ethograms of the play behavior among young, between mothers and their offspring, alloparental care, play-like sexual behavior, and play among adults are presented with descriptions of specific episodes. Between juveniles, rough-and-tumble play was predominant. Sexual behavior was sometimes inserted within the play context, and playful copulation and variously modified sexual behaviors were also observed. Although the patterns of paternal care of the adult male bonobos were not so different from those reported for the chimpanzee, they characteristically included activities with sexual elements. Play behavior among adults could be detected, and some play functioned resolve tensions among them. It is suggested that because play is functionless in a direct way, it appears to create flexibility in adult behavior, and that the self-handicapping characteristically observed in play possibly promotes reciprocal interactions based on an equality principle.