Sex for meat – how chimps seduce their mates

Science Editor,Steve Connor
Wednesday 08 April 2009 00:00

Female chimpanzees living in the wild have been found to engage in a form of prostitution by offering sex in exchange for meat from male chimps.

Scientists have found that the bartering of meat for sex takes place over long periods of time and forms part of the social fabric of a troop of wild chimps living in the Tai National Park in the Cote d'Ivoire.

Anthropologists have previously suggested that early human societies engaged in meat-for-sex behaviour with the best male hunters having the greatest number of sexual partners. The latest findings support the hypothesis, scientists said. "Our results strongly suggest that wild chimpanzees exchange meat for sex, and do so on a long-term basis," said Cristina Gomes of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. "Males who shared meat with females doubled their mating success, whereas females, who had difficulty obtaining meat on their own, increased their calorific intake without the energetic costs and potential risk of injury related to hunting," Dr Gomes said.

Both male and female chimpanzees are sexually promiscuous but males who share their meat with females are rewarded with more copulations, the scientists found in a study published on-line in the Public Library of Science.

"Previous studies might not have found a link because they focused on short-term exchanges, or perhaps in those groups access to females was driven by male coercion so females rarely chose their mating partners," Dr Gomes said. "This will have an impact on our studies of men and women."

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