Comparative rates of violence in chimpanzees and humans

Abstract

This paper tests the proposal that chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and humans have similar rates of death from intraspecific aggression, whereas chimpanzees have higher rates of non-lethal physical attack (Boehm 1999, Hierarchy in the forest: the evolution of egalitarian behavior. Harvard University Press). First, we assembled data on lethal aggression from long-term studies of nine communities of chimpanzees living in five populations. We calculated rates of death from intraspecific aggression both within and between communities. Variation among communities in mortality rates from aggression was high, and rates of death from intercommunity and intracommunity aggression were not correlated. Estimates for average rates of lethal violence for chimpanzees proved to be similar to average rates for subsistence societies of hunter–gatherers and farmers. Second, we compared rates of non-lethal physical aggression for two populations of chimpanzees and one population of recently settled hunter–gatherers. Chimpanzees had rates of aggression between two and three orders of magnitude higher than humans. These preliminary data support Boehm’s hypothesis.

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Acknowledgements

RWW thanks Toshisada Nishida for his invitation to share the celebration of his retirement, for his hospitality in Mahale in 1971, and for his inspiration over four decades. Doug Jones assisted in finding homicide data. We are grateful to Chris Boehm, Polly Weissner and two anonymous reviewers for comments, and to Sylvia Amsler, Tofiki Mikidadi, Carson Murray, Hogan Sherrow and David Watts for access to unpublished data. RWW thanks the National Science Foundation for funds (proposal 0416125).

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Correspondence to Richard W. Wrangham.

Appendices

Appendix 1

Intercommunity killings, adults and adolescents, up to 2004

Site Date Victim (sex) Sex Aggressors’ community Victim’s community Evidence References Certain/suspected
Gombe 1974 Godi M Kasekela Kahama Attack observed 3 Certain
Gombe 1974 M Kasekela Kahama Attack observed 3 Certain
Gombe 1975 Goliath M Kasekela Kahama Attack observed 3 Certain
Gombe 1975 Madam Bee F Kasekela Kahama Attack observed 3 Certain
Gombe 1977 Sniff M Kasekela Kahama Attack observed 3 Certain
Gombe 1998 Unknown M Kasekela Kalande Attack observed 5 Certain
Gombe 1972 Unknown F Kahama? Kalande? Body found 1 Certain
Gombe 1977 Charlie M Kasekela Kahama Body found 3 Certain
Gombe 2002 Rusambo M Kasekela Mitumba Body found 5 Certain
Gombe 1973 Hugh M Kasekela? Kahama Disappeared 3 Suspected
Gombe 1975 Faben M Unknown Kasekela Disappeared 3 Suspected
Gombe 1977 Willy Wally M Kasekela? Kahama Disappeared 3 Suspected
Gombe 1979 Sherry M Unknown Kasekela Disappeared 3, 7 Suspected
Gombe 1981 Humphrey M Unknown Kasekela Disappeared 3 Suspected
Gombe 1982 Figan M Unknown Kasekela Disappeared 3 Suspected
Kibale 2002 Unknown M Ngogo Unknown Attack observed 6 Certain
Kibale 2002 Unknown M Ngogo Unknown Attack observed 6 Certain
Kibale 2002 Unknown M Ngogo Unknown Attack observed 6 Certain
Kibale 2004 Unknown M Ngogo Unknown Attack observed 9 Certain
Kibale 2004 Unknown M Ngogo Unknown Attack observed 10 Certain
Kibale 1992 Ruwenzori M Rurama Kanyawara Body found 4 Certain
Kibale 1998 Unknown M Kanyawara Sebitole Body found 4 Certain
Kibale 1994 Julian M Unknown Kanyawara Disappeared 8 Suspected
Kibale 1998 Badfoot M Unknown Kanyawara Disappeared 8 Suspected
Kibale 2001 Light Brown M Unknown Kanyawara Disappeared 8 Suspected
Mahale 1970 Kaguba M M-group? K-Group Disappeared 2 Suspected
Mahale 1975 Kasanga M M-group? K-Group Disappeared 2 Suspected
Mahale 1975 Kajabala M M-group? K-Group Disappeared 2 Suspected
Mahale 1978 Kasonta M M-group? K-Group Disappeared 2 Suspected
Mahale 1979 Sobongo M M-group? K-Group Disappeared 2 Suspected
Mahale 1982 Kamemanfu M M-group? K-Group Disappeared 2 Suspected
Mahale 1982 Masisa M M-group? K-Group Disappeared 2 Suspected
  1. References: 1, Wrangham (1975); 2, Nishida and Kawanaka (1985); 3, Goodall (1986); 4, Wrangham (1999); 5, Wilson et al. (submitted); 6, Watts and Mitani (personal communication); 7, Jane Goodall Institute’s Center for Primate Studies; 8, Kibale Chimpanzee Project records; 9, Muller (personal observation), Watts et al. (2005); 10, Watts et al. (2005)

Appendix 2

Intercommunity infanticides up to 2002

Site Date Infant’s sex Aggressors’ community Victim’s community Evidence References
Budongo 1991 M Sonso N15 Attack observed 5
Budongo 1991 Unknown Sonso N15 Body seen 5
Gombe 1971 Unknown Kasekela Unknown Attack observed 1
Gombe 1975 F Kasekela Unknown Attack observed 2
Gombe 1975 M Kasekela Unknown Body seen 2
Gombe 1979 Unknown Kasekela Unknown Attack observed 4
Gombe 1993 F Kasekela Mitumba Attack observed 8
Gombe 1998 Unknown Kasekela Kalande Attack observed 8
Kibale 1995 Unknown Ngogo Eastern Attack observed 6
Kibale 1995 Unknown Ngogo Eastern Attack observed 6
Kibale 2001 Unknown Ngogo Northern Attack observed 7
Kibale 2001 Unknown Ngogo Northern Body seen 7
Kibale 2004 M Ngogo ? Attack observed 10
Kibale 2004 Unknown Ngogo ? Attack observed 10
Mahale 1970 M K-group M-group Body seen 3
Mahale 1971 M M-group K-group Body seen 3
Mahale 2001 M M-group Unknown Attack observed 9
  1. References: 1, Bygott (1972); 2, Goodall (1977); 3, Nishida (1979); 4, Goodall (1986); 5, Newton-Fisher (1999); 6, Watts and Mitani (2000); 7, Watts et al. (2002); 8, Wilson et al. (2004); 9, Kutsukake and Matsusaka (2002); 10, Hogan Sherrow and Sylvia Amsler (personal communication)

Appendix 3

Intracommunity killings, adults and adolescents, up to 2002

Site Date Victim Sex Community Evidence References Certain/suspected
Mahale 1995 Ntologi M M-group Attack observed 1 Certain
Mahale 1996 Jilba M M-group Body found 2 Certain
Budongo 1998 Zesta M Sonso Attack observed 3 Certain
Kibale 2002 Grapelli M Ngogo Attack observed 4 Certain
Gombe 2004 Vincent M Mitumba Attack observed 5 Certain
  1. References: 1, Nishida (1996); 2, Wrangham (1999); 3, Fawcett and Muhumuza (2000); 4, Watts (2004); 5, Tofiki Mikidadi (personal communication)

Appendix 4

Intracommunity infanticides up to 2004

Site Date Victim Sex Community Evidence Attackers References
Budongo 1967 Unknown ? Sonso? Body found   1
Gombe 1975 Otta F Kasekela Observed Females 2
Gombe 1976 Orion M Kasekela Observed Females 2
Gombe 1976 Genie F Kasekela Observed Females 2
Gombe 2004 Tofiki M Kasekela Observed Male 5
Gombe 1976 MLB2 M Kasekela Body found Unknown 2
Gombe 1994 Rafiki’s ? Mitumba Body found   3
Gombe 1976 Banda F Kasekela Suspected Unknown 2
Gombe 1974 Gandalf M Kasekela Suspected Unknown 2
Gombe 1975 Patti’s unk Kasekela Suspected   4
Gombe 1976 Little Bee’s unk Kasekela Suspected   4
Gombe 1991 Kenitum M Kasekela Suspected   6
Gombe 2004 Kobe M Kasekela Suspected   5
Kibale 1994 Temba M Kanyawara Observed Male, female 7
Mahale 1983 Watendele’s M M-group Observed Males 8
Mahale 1985 TMs M M-group Observed Male 9
Mahale 1989 Mirinda’s M M-group Observed Males 10
Mahale 1977 Humbe (Ndilo’s) M M-group Body found Male? 11
Mahale 1983 Chausiku’s M M-group Body found Male? 12
Mahale 1990 Betty’s M M-group Observed Male 10
Mahale 1979 Wakasunga’s M M-group Suspected Unknown 13
Taï ? ? ? Northern Body found   14
  1. References: 1, Suzuki (1971) (occurred before long-term study and hence not used in calculation of death rates); 2, Goodall (1986), Jane Goodall Institute CPS; 3, Anne Pusey (personal communication); 4, Goodall (1986, p.284) (“Three other mothers, etc.”); 5, Carson Murray (personal communication); 6, JGI-CPS unpublished data (observers thought that victim was hurt during an attack on his mother); 7, Arcadi and Wrangham (1999); 8, Takahata (1985); 9, K. Masui unpublished observation (1986), cited in Hamai et al. (1992); 10, Hamai et al. (1992); 11, Norikoshi (1982); 12, Nishida and Kawanaka (1985); 13, Kawanaka (1981); 14, Boesch and Boesch-Achermann (2000, p 33) (infant found being eaten by females, and young mother without infant seen in border region)

Appendix 5

Number of known, inferred or suspected adult or adolescent victims of intercommunity aggression at long-term study sites up to 2002

Site Attack observed Body found Disappearance Total
Budongo 0 0 0 0
Gombe 6 3 6 15
Kibale 5 2 3 10
Mahale 0 0 7 7
Taï 0 0 0 0
Total 11 5 16 32
  1. Data are from Appendix 1. “Disappearance” means that an individual disappeared without suffering from ill health or old age

Appendix 6

Number of known or inferred victims of intercommunity infanticide at long-term study sites up to 2002

  Attack observed Body found Total
Budongo 1 1 2
Gombe 5 1 6
Kibale 5 1 6
Mahale 1 2 3
Taï 0 0 0
Total 12 5 17
  1. Data are from Appendix 2. Although observers sometimes consider infants that disappeared to have been possible victims of infanticide, no attempt is made to list them because infants often die from other causes also

Appendix 7

Number of known, inferred or suspected adult or adolescent victims of intracommunity aggression at long-term study sites up to 2002

  Attack observed Body found Total
Budongo 1 0 1
Gombe 1 0 1
Kibale 1 0 1
Mahale 1 1 2
Taï 0 0 0
Total 4 1 5
  1. Data are from Appendix 3

Appendix 8

Number of known or inferred victims of intracommunity infanticide at long-term study sites up to 2004

  Attack observed Body found Suspected Total
Budongo 0 1 0 1
Gombe 3 2 6 11
Kibale 1 0 0 1
Mahale 4 2 1 7
Taï 0 1 0 1
Total 8 6 7 21
  1. Data are from Appendix 4

Appendix 9

Average community composition for study communities

Site Community Years A–M A–F Adol–M Adol–F IJ Total References
Budongo Sonso 1996 12.0 11.0 4.0 6.0 17.0 50.0 1
Gombe Kahama 1973–1977 4.2 1.8 0.6 1.0 2.4 10.0 2
Gombe Kasekela 1966–1998 8.7 12.2 1.8 3.5 20.1 46.3 2
Gombe Mitumba 1996–2002 3.1 7.4 1.6 1.9 8.0 22.0 2
Kibale Kanyawara 1988–2000 10.0 13.2 2.7 3.2 15.0 44.1 3
Kibale Ngogo 1999 24.0 47.0 15.0 9.0 49.0 144.0 4
Mahale K-group 1966–1983 3.8 10.7 0.8 2.6 7.8 25.7 5
Mahale M-group 1980–1999 8.5 28.6 7.6 7.7 26.6 79.0 6
Taï Northern 1982–1996 6.7 21.5 3.0 4.2 25.8 61.2 7
  1. References: 1, Reynolds (1998), Newton-Fisher (2002); 2, Jane Goodall Institute’s Center for Primate Studies (unpublished); 3, Kibale Chimpanzee Project (unpublished); 4, Watts et al. (2002); 5, Nishida et al. (1985); 6, Nishida et al. (2003); 7, Boesch and Boesch-Achermann (2000)

Appendix 10

Duration of study periods relevant to observation of lethal aggression

Site Community Study begin Study end No. of study years No. of years poorly known No. of dData years
Budongo Sonso 1991 2004 14 4 10
Gombe Kahama 1973 1977 5 0 5
Gombe Kasekela 1960 2004 45 6 39
Gombe Mitumba 1994 2004 11 2 9
Kibale Kanyawara 1987 2004 18 4 14
Kibale Ngogo 1994 2004 11 3 8
Mahale K-group 1966 1983 18 2 16
Mahale M-group 1968 2004 37 3 35
Taï Northern 1979 2004 26 3 23
Total     185 27 158
  1. “Study end”, ongoing studies are considered through 2004; “# Study years”, number of years when community was demographically well-known; “# Years poorly known”, period when demography uncertain, and/or observers rarely visited territorial boundaries and did not observe contacts with neighboring communities; “No. of dData years”, estimated number of years when intercommunity aggression could be observed

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Wrangham, R.W., Wilson, M.L. & Muller, M.N. Comparative rates of violence in chimpanzees and humans. Primates 47, 14–26 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-005-0140-1

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Keywords

  • Chimpanzee
  • Human
  • Lethal aggression
  • Mortality rate
  • Physical attack