Science: Inter-Species Primate Violence Observed

The Story:

A team of German researchers at Loango National Park in Gabon, on the Atlantic coast of central Africa, report that they have observed attacks upon gorillas by chimpanzees: attacks that caused fatalities. This is the first recorded instance of violence between the two ape species.


The team made these observations in 2019. Their account has recently been published in the journal Nature.

The scientists write of two distinct attacks, in both cases initiated by a “coalition” of chimps working together. Each attack resulted in one dead infant gorilla. They also observed the “consumption” of the infant victim in one of these events.

They argue that, despite the consumption of one of the infants, this may not be a case of violence as predation. It may, rather, be the consequence of the competition of both species for the same food sources.

Strange New Worlds:

The news may be distressing to those who look to the sources of human behavior in evolutionary biology, and so in our own primate origins. As the paper in Nature says, using academic terms to make the point, these observations “may aid in combining field data from extant models with the Pliocene hominid fossil record to better understand behavioral adaptations and interspecies killing in the hominid lineage.”




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