International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 207–217 | Cite as

Food calling by captive bonobos (Pan paniscus): An experiment

  • E. Krunkelsven
  • J. Dupain
  • L. Van Elsacker
  • R. F. Verheyen


We examined (i) whether bonobos display a specific food-calling behavior when discovering a hidden food resource, (ii) whether the presence of competitors affects this behavior, and (iii) whether food quantity or gender influences its appearance. We carried out experiments (n = 108) within a captive group of eight bonobos at the Animal Park Planckendael (Mechelen,Belgium). We hid highly preferred food items (n = 7 or 25) in their enclosure and recorded vocal behavior and interactions between discoverer and group members. As a control, we gave the same number of items to the individuals when isolated from the group, a situation without potential food competition (n = 38). The only vocalization frequently uttered by the discoverer was the food peep. They uttered food peeps significantly more often when no food competition was possible. The amount of food had no significant influence on whether food peeps were uttered. The same applies to the individuals’ identity or gender. Although the costs of food calling behavior seemed much higher for males, both sexes uttered food calls to the same extent. We hypothesize thai males signal food presence in order to attract potential mates and are willing to give up the discovered food resource in return for sex: sex for food exchange. In contrast, females may vocalize to attract coalition partners. Through these coalitions, they can monopolize food resources vis-à-vis males. It is also possible that females have less reason to suppress food calk, since they are dominant to males. This study suggests that bonobos are able to give shaded signals about their environment and have the potential to communicate this information in order to promote their sexual strategy.

Key words

Pan paniscus bonobo vocalization food calls food competition 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Krunkelsven
    • 1
  • J. Dupain
    • 1
  • L. Van Elsacker
    • 2
  • R. F. Verheyen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of AntwerpWilrijkBelgium
  2. 2.Royal Zoological Society of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium

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