Pan Female Sociality

Female chimpanzees were long ignored as asocial while research focused on the loud gregarious chimpanzee males. We’ve busted this myth and know that female chimpanzees do form friendships that can last years and are more social than previously thought. Still, though, you can watch a group of females for hours and they may not interact at all. Contrast this with bonobos, where unrelated females frequently interact and they team up to form alliances. Why the big differences between males and females? Between chimpanzees and bonobos? What does these mean for female sociality in humans?

Pan/Homo Life History

One of the most striking features that differentiates humans from chimpanzees and bonobos is the accelerated reproduction typical of female humans. While Pan females get started reproducing a little bit earlier, they go at a slow, plodding pace, only giving birth once every five years or so. They’ll continue until they die, though. In contrast, human females get started very late, but once they have a baby, they are capable of reproducing every 1 – 3 years. In the absence of birth control, human females will maintain this pace until menopause sometime in their forties. They can have decades of life to live after having their last baby. This pattern is unique in the animal kingdom but we aren’t entirely sure when, why and how this pattern emerged in the course of human evolution.