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Bonobo

Animalia > Chordata > Mammalia > Primates > Hominidae > Pan paniscus
The Bonobo (Pan paniscus) is one of the hominid Great Apes, also known as the "pygmy chimpanzee". Bonobos were discovered in 1928, by American anatomist Harold Coolidge[?], represented by a skull in the Tervuren museum in Belgium that had been thought to be a juvenile chimpanzee's (credit for the discovery went to the German Ernst Schwarz[?], who published in 1929). They are distinguished by an upright gait, a matriarchal and egalitarian culture, and the prominant role of sex in their society (see below).

Along with the chimpanzee, bonobos are the nearest human relatives, sharing approximately 98.4% of their DNA with humans (bonobos diverged from chimpanzees after humans did, so the two can be considered equally related to us). Bonobos passed the mirror-recognition test for self-awareness in 1994. They primarily communicate vocally, in a language that has not yet been decyphered; however, we do understand some of their natural hand gestures (for example, an invitation to play). Two bonobos, Kanzi and Panbanisha, have been taught a vocabulary of about 200 words (they can type them on a special keyboard, draw the corresponding icons using chalk, and respond to spoken sentences). These results, some (see, for example, Peter Singer) would argue, qualifies them for the same rights as humans.

Sexual intercourse plays a major role in Bonobo society, being used as a greeting, a means of conflict resolution and post-conflict reconciliation, and a favor traded by the females in exchange for food (see prostitution). Bonobos are the only apes other than humans to have been observed engaging in tongue kissing, face-to-face intercourse (see sexual intercourse), oral sex, and sex between females (see lesbianism). Bonobos do not form permanent relationships with partners.

Bonobos live in a fusion-fission pattern: a tribe of about a hundred will split into small groups during the day while looking for food, and then come back together to sleep. Unlike chimpanzees (which have been known to hunt monkeys), bonobos are primarily vegetarian, although they do eat insects and have been observed occasionally catching small mammals such as squirrels. Fruit is their primary food source.

Bonobos are found only in the Congo River basin (see Geography of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) of central Africa. They are an endangered species, due to both habitat loss and hunting for "bushmeat"; at most several thousand remain. This is part of a more general trend to ape extinction (or, given the hominid status, some would say ape genocide).


Bonobo is also a component model used in GNOME Desktop environment.



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