Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bonobos stay young longer: Unlike humans and chimpanzees, bonobos retain elevated thyroid hormones well into adulthood

Date:
December 17, 2013
Source:
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Summary:
Despite the fact that chimpanzees and bonobos share similar starting conditions at birth, they develop different behavioral patterns later in life. These differences might be caused by different hormone levels.

Baby bonobo with its mother: In this chimp species higher levels of thyroid hormones during adulthood influences social behavior and cognitive skills.
Credit: © MPI f. Evolutionary Anthropology/C. Ziegler

Despite the fact that chimpanzees and bonobos share similar starting conditions at birth they develop different behavioural patterns later in life. These differences might be caused by different hormone levels.

Related Articles


Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp in Belgium have analyzed thyroid hormones from urine samples of zoo-living chimpanzees and bonobos. They discovered that bonobos retain elevated thyroid hormone concentrations well into adulthood, whereas in humans and chimpanzees thyroid hormone concentrations decline after puberty. The late decline of thyroid hormones in bonobos might have consequences on their behaviour and might also indicate a delayed development of their mental capacities.

The thyroid hormones Triiodthyronin (T3) and Thyroxin (T4) influence the ontogenetic development in human and animals. Prenatally, they are responsible for brain and somatic growth as well as for maturation. Later, they influence somatic growth and the emergence of specific developmental stages such as puberty and adulthood. Given the key role of thyroid hormones in the development of all vertebrates, it astonishes that so little is known about thyroid hormones and their impact on the ontogenetic development in our closest living relatives, bonobo and chimpanzee.

While the two species show minor differences in their behaviour during their first years of life, they differ remarkably when they reach adulthood. Male bonobos are less aggressive, engage in lasting friendships with females and receive life-long support from their mothers. In contrast, the social network of male chimpanzees consists of a mixture of male-male cooperation and aggressive behavioural strategies in males that aim on gaining and maintaining high social status. The consequence is that the two sister species live in different social systems.

While some researchers relate this difference in aggression to the dominance relations between females and males, others have suggested that bonobos retain juvenile behaviours until adulthood and -- by inference -- do not develop the behavioural suite that supports strive for high dominance status of male chimpanzees. In a recent study, scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and of the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp in Belgium have investigated hormonal changes in bonobos and chimpanzees. For hormonal analyses, urine samples from around 200 zoo-living individuals ranging between one and 56 years of age were used.

Hormone measures showed that the thyroid hormone pattern of western modern humans and chimpanzees was very similar, with high levels before puberty and a decrease of this hormone during and after puberty. Unexpectedly, samples of bonobos differed: The concentration of thyroid hormone T3 remained high well until adulthood. In other words, compared to chimpanzees, bonobos retain the elevated levels of thyroid hormone which are a characteristic trait for young individuals for a longer time and experience the decline of thyroid hormones relatively late in life. Interestingly, male bonobos were found to have higher thyroid hormone levels than females during their entire life. "Our study showed that male bonobos, who are known for their low levels for aggressive behaviour, had higher thyroid hormone levels than females," says Verena Behringer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. "High thyroid hormone levels likely reduce aggression in male apes." It is likely that female bonobos prefer thyroid hormone "doped" mates.

Moreover, psychological studies indicate that the cognitive development is delayed in bonobos as compared to chimpanzees. It is known that by the age of ten years the growth of a chimpanzee's brain volume and bones has already been finished. The late decline of thyroid hormones in the urine of bonobos might thus show that these animals' mental capacities start developing later in life.

"These are challenging results and we want to find out next, what the biological relevance of the high thyroid levels in bonobos is in detail," says Verena Behringer. "As the thyroid hormone decline in humans is between the one of bonobos and chimpanzees it remains to be seen which of the two species represents the original thyroid rhythm, that is whether the chimpanzee is early ripe or the bonobo a late bloomer."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Verena Behringer, Tobias Deschner, Rσisνn Murtagh, Jeroen M.G. Stevens, Gottfried Hohmann. Age-related changes in Thyroid hormone levels of bonobos and chimpanzees indicate heterochrony in development. Journal of Human Evolution, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.09.008

Cite This Page:

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "Bonobos stay young longer: Unlike humans and chimpanzees, bonobos retain elevated thyroid hormones well into adulthood." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217123828.htm>.
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. (2013, December 17). Bonobos stay young longer: Unlike humans and chimpanzees, bonobos retain elevated thyroid hormones well into adulthood. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217123828.htm
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "Bonobos stay young longer: Unlike humans and chimpanzees, bonobos retain elevated thyroid hormones well into adulthood." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217123828.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Newsy (Nov. 22, 2014) — For the first time Monterey Bay Aquarium recorded a video of the elusive, creepy and rarely seen anglerfish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Around the World Take Flight

Birds Around the World Take Flight

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 22, 2014) — An imperial eagle equipped with a camera spreads its wings over London. It's just one of the many birds making headlines in this week's "animal roundup". Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Baby Okapi Born at Houston Zoo

Raw: Baby Okapi Born at Houston Zoo

AP (Nov. 20, 2014) — The Houston Zoo released video of a male baby okapi. Okapis, also known as the "forest giraffe", are native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Video is mute from source. (Nov. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins