The Social Network: Why mama chimps behave differently with sons and daughters

Ah, social skills. The curse of awkward teenagers everywhere and a key factor in determining the success of your upcoming blind date. As humans, we use our social skills to communicate and interact with others in both selfish and altruistic ways.

Like humans, chimps are highly social animals that live in communities. (Source)
Like humans, chimps are highly social animals that live in communities. (Source)

Chimpanzees, our closest living relative, also possess deft social skills. Adult male chimpanzees rely heavily on their social skills to form coalitions with other males to help them rise in the ranks and produce more offspring. On the other hand, female chimpanzee hierarchies are not determined based on strength and aggression, but rather, based on age. Females also spend a lot of time by themselves, nursing and taking care of their offspring. Are having good social skills, then, more important for male chimps than for female chimps? Would male infant chimps benefit more from having social interactions than females? Continue reading