Anthropologists have never directly observed a female-dominated society among humans, but many have speculated that such societies would be less violent than male-dominated ones. Now that postulate has been challenged by hard evidence. Bonobos, a primate species that is female-dominated and bisexual, have been observed repeatedly hunting and killing other apes in the wild. A group of evolutionary anthropologists will publish a paper in Current Biology tomorrow documenting evidence that the supposedly peaceful bonobos are as bloodthirsty as their male-dominated chimp counterparts. Evolutionary anthropologist Gottfried Hohmann, a co-author of the study, says this discovery might change how we understand male dominance in society:
In chimpanzees, male-dominance is associated with physical violence, hunting, and meat consumption. By inference, the lack of male dominance and physical violence is often used to explain the relative absence of hunting and meat eating in bonobos. Our observations suggest that, in contrast to previous assumptions, these behaviors may persist in societies with different social relations.
Now all that awesome feminist science fiction from the 1970s about women who fight like crazed weasels has been validated! Photo by Emmanuelle Grundmann. Primate hunting by bonobos at LuiKotale, Salonga National Park [Coming Oct. 14 in Current Biology]