International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 500–512 | Cite as

Bonobos (Pan paniscus) Perform Branch Drag Displays before Long-Distance Travel

  • Isaac Schamberg
  • Dorothy L. Cheney
  • Robert M. Seyfarth


Many primates use objects in courtship and dominance displays, but little is known about such displays in other contexts. Bonobos (Pan paniscus) frequently perform “branch drag” displays in which an individual runs along the ground while holding a branch in one hand. We aim to understand how bonobos use branch drags in the context of group travel. Using observational data collected from a community of free-ranging bonobos at the Lui Kotale field site in the Democratic Republic of Congo we compare group travel that occurs after branch drags to travel in the absence of branch drags. We found that bonobos are much more likely to perform branch drags before travel to a distant feeding tree than before shorter bouts of travel. At some locations, bonobos also perform branch drags before a change in travel direction. Our results suggest that in specific contexts branch drags may provide information about upcoming group travel, and likely function to coordinate group movement.


Bonobo Communicative display Object use Travel coordination 



We thank the Congolese Wildlife Authority for permission to conduct research in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gottfried Hohmann access to the field site, Lys Alcayna for assistance with data collection, and Martin Surbeck for early discussions on the topic. We are grateful to Joanna Setchell and two anonymous reviewers for carefully reading and commenting on the manuscript. Research was funded by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (I. Schamberg) and grants from the Leaky Foundation (I. Schamberg), the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania (I. Schamberg), and National Geographic Society (R. M. Seyfarth).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of Interest

We have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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