For bonobo fans

Tonight, on NOVA, it’s The Last Great Ape, promising to have lots of sex and violence (violence provided by the genus Homo, I’m afraid). These are very cool apes, well worth watching.


  1. Gyeong Hwa Pak, the Pikachu of Anthropology says

    You’ve been posting much on the subject of Primate sex. I’m beginning to pick up some sort of Freudian vibes here, PZ.

  2. Whore of All the Earth says

    I remember watching videos of bonobos in anthropology and thinking, “My god, they’re just like us!”

  3. Newfie says

    dagnabbit! I get my PBS feed from Detroit. They have a bio on Andrew Carnegie or some shit on.

  4. bkniaz says

    Such amazing creatures. thanks for the heads up. Been lurking here for months, thanks for the Blog.

  5. Sio Babble says

    If they’re our “closest living relatives”, then how can they be “peace-loving”?

    Because we’re certainly not!

  6. Insightful Ape says

    It was a very good show. Poignant too.
    A whole species narrowly escaped extinction. And they are still not out of the woods. No pun intended.
    Thanks PZ.

  7. Rey Fox says

    “You’ve been posting much on the subject of Primate sex.”

    It’s more palatable than Mormon sex.

  8. Pygmy Loris says


    Why did you have to tell us about this? All the orphan babies made me cry.

    I love bonobos, and I think their relationship to us is undervalued when the common chimpanzee is in the picture. At least they brought up the point that we rely so heavily on chimpanzees as models of hominin behavior because we’ve been studying them so much longer.

  9. A.Ou says


    Just a guess – I think what PZ means is that the violence is initiated by humans (i.e., human violence towards animals).

  10. Newfie says

    Why did you have to tell us about this? All the orphan babies made me cry.

    Yet we, and I’m including myself.. will do more for, and give more to the local SPCA, (because we have an affinity to dogs and cats) than we will to help out our closest relative.. species wise.

  11. Lauren says

    thanks for letting us know about this! the next Nova looks good too –> What Darwin Didn’t Know.

  12. SteveC says

    Saw the show, pretty good, but I wanted to strangle the narrator. He spoke in that “movie-guy” voice the whole time, like he was doing a Don Lafontaine impression.

  13. Pygmy Loris says


    Speak for yourself. I support the Jane Goodall Institute, and several small organizations around the world that seek to help primates and the people who live with them.

    Preventing the forestry industry from accessing ever more remote areas of forest is one way to lessen the poaching of primates and other animals collectively referred to as bushmeat.

    Supporting organizations that oppose (and offer alternatives to) slash and burn agriculture also helps primate species. Habitat loss is the most serious threat to primate species around the globe. Loss of the Atlantic Coastal Forest in Brazil has decimated the Golden Lion Tamarin.

    Sadly, I don’t have the money left to help the ASPCA, but I do trap the feral cats that live around my house (in a very small town) and take them in to get spayed/neutered. Luckily I have managed to convince my neighbors to get their outdoor cats fixed, too. I try to find homes for them too, but several currently reside in our shed, and I feed them.

  14. Tomocar says

    Wow! What a wonderful program! Thanks for the alert PZ. And thanks to the sponsors and producers of Nova and PBS for such good science programming. TV would be almost worthless without PBS! I have the impression that Nova has made an extra effort over the past couple of years to do more programs that demonstrate the truth of evolution. Hopefully a few evolution skeptics out there see these programs and see the light. And, as someone noted above – don’t miss next week.

  15. kezz says

    Bonobos make my heart beat faster…If only we had modelled our societies on the bonobo rather than the chimp.
    We would live in peace and delete all the war mongering through orgasmic bliss.
    We would live in communal matriarchal groups where sexual competition is virtually eliminated and the male has no idea who he has fathered.

    Make love not war. World problems solved.

    Bonobos are our hippy relatives, and heart breakingly few remain.

    Save the bonobo.
    Become one.

  16. raven says

    If they’re our “closest living relatives”, then how can they be “peace-loving”?

    Because we’re certainly not!

    That was one of the great insights of ape research.

    The bonobos and common chimps are closely related and both are less but still closely related to us.

    The two chimp species have very different social structures and psychologies. Neither is all that similar to humans.

    This tells one that in evolutionary terms, behavior is very plastic. We humans certainly have our problems with intragroup and intergroup violence. It was bad enough with guns and swords but now we have nukes. It is possible that if we manage to keep going, our descendants will be wiser and less violence prone than we are.

    Evolutionarily, humans aren’t locked into a culdesac. Yet.

  17. Knockgoats says

    raven is quite right about the significance of bonobo research, although it’s worth noting that the amount of research on wild populations is not large – some of the less pleasant aspects of chimpanzee life at Gombe did not emerge until after quite a few years. It’s also possible that cultural differences between populations of both chimpanzee species are important in relation to violence – I don’t know. However, there seems no doubt that at least some bonobo groups are far more peaceful and matriarchal than any known chimpanzee groups. I suspect that in social animals as intelligent as apes, the socio-cultural system itself becomes the main source of selective pressure, giving rise to novel kinds of positive feedback loop between genetic and cultural change, and so allowing rapid behavioural evolution.

  18. Sven DiMilo says

    Behavioral evolution? In other chimps? Careful, Kg….that way lies madness! Evolutionary Psychology.

  19. B166ER says

    Damn! I wish I had been able to watch the show, Bonobo’s are such a fascinating species. I find it funny though that everyone keeps talking likes nothing is wrong when according to ‘atheismismdead’, the website is under attack by spiritual forces!!! The spiritual forces are attacking his vowels, OURS MIGHT BE NEXT!!! If that happens, OUR SENTENCES WILL BE DOOMED!!! Thank you ‘atheismisdead’ for alerting us to the danger that spiritual forces lurking around the interwebs pose to our vowels.

    No Gods, No Masters