Male reproductive skew is higher in bonobos than chimpanzees

Martin Surbeck, Kevin Langergraber, Barbara Fruth, Linda Vigilant, Gottfried Hohmann

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The two closest living relatives of humans, bonobos (Pan paniscus) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), share many traits that are common in humans but rare in other mammals, including societies with high fission–fusion dynamics, male philopatry, female dispersal and extensive social bonding among unrelated individuals [1]. The major difference between these two species is that male aggression is more frequent and intense in male-dominated chimpanzees than in bonobos, where the highest-ranking individuals are female [1]. One potential explanation is that because periods of female sexual receptivity and attractiveness are more extended in bonobos [2], males compete less intensely for each mating opportunity. This would reduce the strength of selection for traits that lead to success in direct contest competition between males and in sexual coercion of females, thus increasing the potential for female choice [3]. Accordingly, it has been predicted that the influence of male dominance rank on reproductive success and the extent of male reproductive skew should be lower in bonobos than in chimpanzees [1]. Although relevant for understanding the evolution of the unusual levels of egalitarianism and cooperation found in human hunter-gatherers [4], comparative analyses in the genus Pan have been limited by the scanty paternity data available for wild bonobos [5]. Here, we show using the largest sample of paternity data available that, contrary to expectation, male bonobos have a higher reproductive skew and a stronger relationship between dominance rank and reproductive success than chimpanzees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R640-R641
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 10 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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