“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Exchanging meat for sex. Only for chimps?

Share and share alike: a male chimp will give up his hard-earned catch for sex. He is not alone.

Chimpanzees exchange meat for sex

By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News

Chimpanzees enter into "deals" whereby they exchange meat for sex, according to researchers.
Male chimps that are willing to share the proceeds of their hunting expeditions mate twice as often as their more selfish counterparts.

This is a long-term exchange, so males continue to share their catch with females when they are not fertile, copulating with them when they are.

The team describe their findings in the journal PLoS One.

Cristina Gomes and her colleagues, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, studied chimps in the Tai Forest reserve in Ivory Coast.

She and her team observed the animals as they hunted, and monitored the number of times they copulated.
"By sharing, the males increase the number of times they mate, and the females increase their intake of calories," said Dr Gomes.

"What's amazing is that if a male shares with a particular female, he doubles the number of times he copulates with her, which is likely to increase the probability of fertilising that female."

High value

Meat is important for the animals' diet because it is so high in protein. Since female chimps do not usually hunt, "they have a hard time getting it on their own," explained Dr Gomes.

One Night Stands

Males might share meat with a female one day, and only copulate with her a day or two later
Cristina Gomes

The "meat for sex hypothesis" had already been proposed to explain why male chimps might share with females.
But previous attempts to record the phenomenon failed, because researchers looked for direct exchanges, where a male shared meat with a fertile female and copulated with her right away.

Dr Gomes' team took a new approach. In a previous study, she had found that grooming exchange - where the animals take it in turns to groom each other - happens over long periods, she related. "So we thought, why not meat and sex?

"We looked at chimps when they were not in oestrus, this means they don't have sexual swellings and aren't copulating."
"The males still share with them - they might share meat with a female one day, and only copulate with her a day or two later."
Dr Gomes thinks that her findings could even provide clues about human evolution.

She suggests this study could lay the foundations for human studies exploring the link between "good hunting skills and reproductive success".

"This has got me really interested in humans," she said. "I'm thinking of moving on to working with hunter-gatherers."
Michael Gurven from the University of California in Santa Barbara studies human behaviour in communities of hunter-gatherers in South America.

He told BBC News that the direct link between success in hunting and reproduction highlighted by this study could "help in our thinking about humans".

Professor Gurven, who was not involved in this study, added that the nature of this exchange of meat for sex is "kind of like pair bonding in humans, because it's long-term.

"This highlights something we haven't seen in chimps before."


  1. You and Trish are World Travelers:
    Do you speak Austrian?

  2. A little German, but I will say this, in some parts of Austria, it is hard to recognize their German.

  3. Our Harvard grad didn't recognize it was German.

  4. A journey into my colon -- and yours - Dave Barry -

    If you are a professional humor writer, and there is a giant colon within a 200-mile radius, you are legally obligated to go see it. So I went to Miami Beach and crawled through the Colossal Colon. I wrote a column about it, making tasteless colon jokes. But I also urged everyone to get a colonoscopy. I even, when I emerged from the Colossal Colon, signed a pledge stating that I would get one.
    But I didn't get one.
    I was a fraud, a hypocrite, a liar.
    I was practically a member of Congress.

  5. "MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: Have you ever seen a space shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently.

    You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.
    I'm Drinkin "GoLytely" so I get to drink a gallon.

  6. "Any sign of the trapped miners, Chief?"

  7. Obama Names Pope-Basher to Faith-Based Initiative Board

    ( – President Barack Obama has named to the federal government’s faith-based initiative a gay-rights activist who, last month, described Pope Benedict XVI and certain Catholic bishops as “discredited leaders” because of their opposition to same-sex marriage.

    Harry Knox, who is a newly appointed member of Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, is the director of the religion and faith program at the Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual activist group.

    In addition to his remarks about the Pope, Knox also criticized the Catholic Knights of Columbus as being “foot soldiers of a discredited army of oppression” because of the Knights’ support of Proposition 8. The latter was a ballot initiative that amended California’s state constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman, and passed in November 2008.

  8. Why, I never! Them female chimps. Meat hookers, I call 'em.

  9. Meat?

    Likker is quicker.

  10. I was going to say that I don't recall receiving any meat products.

    But there were numerous weekend lunches at The Front Room in San Francisco.

    And I always got the pizza burger.


  11. And I am a professionally trained German linguist.

    In theory.

  12. Great commentary on theory:

  13. I believe my Myers-Briggs would place me somewhere in Kennnnnntucky. Which is not at all a bad place to be, especially this time of year.

  14. hmmmm, looking at the maps it seems we ought to all move to---Salt Lake City!

  15. Fight back against the Federal Reserve--Print Your Own Local Currency

    We have Valley Script here, so they say, though I've never seen any. If the community were big enough, it would seem to be a counterfeiters dream, with all these computers and fancy printers.

  16. A glass of red wine will do it for me.