Chimpanzees prefer to focus on fewer friends as they age, study suggests

24 Octobre, 2020, 22:58 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Chimpanzees prefer to focus on fewer friends as they age, study suggests

The study shows what can be the first evidence of non-human animals actively selecting whom they relate to during aging. According to an idea in psychology known as the socio-emotional selective theory, or SST, older adults prefer more positive relationships because they realize that time is running out.

The team produced three categories: mutual friends, who both showed a preference for sitting with each other, one-sided friends where only one party showed a preference but the other did not, and non-friends where neither side preferred each other.

"What is really cool is that we found that chimpanzees are showing these patterns that reflect those of humans", said Alexandra Rosati, assistant professor of psychology and anthropology at the University of MI and one of the article's main authors.

Older males were also more likely to spend more time alone but interacted with more important social partners, like their aging mutual friends.

They found that the animals displayed much of the same behaviour ageing humans exhibit.

According to Machanda, the results - published in the journal Science - show that a sense of future time is not necessary for social circles to shrink with age, and that other factors may support behavior in humans and chimpanzees. They then rated the various pairs as mutual friendships, where both shimps seem to have enjoyed the relationship; One-sided friendship, where one shimp was more interested in being a friend than the other; And friendshiplessness, where chimps both show no interest in the other.

"There's really a pressing need to understand the biology of aging", Rosati said.

"More humans are living longer than in the past, which can change the dynamics of ageing". This holds that people prioritise established relationships as they grow older due to their own impending sense of mortality and the desire to make the best of available time.

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The study's co-authors are Lindsey Hagberg and Richard Wrangham, researchers at Harvard University; Drew Enigk, Melissa Emery Thompson and Martin Muller, researchers at the University of New Mexico; and Emily Otali, field director of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project.

The observations left the researchers baffled.

Or as Machanda said: "They can be very happy together".

To study their affinities for one another, the team developed an "association index" that was based on how often a male within a party was in close proximity (under five meters) to another, relative to how much they associated with all group members. These are categorized as mutual friendships while one-sided friendships are when one chimp prefers sitting close to another chimp but that other chimp doesn't share that habit.

There is more to aging than just gray hair and wrinkled skin. "When you have this kind of mutual friendship, you actually groom that individual more, so these older chimps have these mutual friendships and they're actually grooming those individuals quite a bit".

The scientists weren't entirely surprised by their findings. "We know that as humans age, their social networks shrink but their social bonds get stronger, and we see the same thing here in chimpanzees".

Another feature seen in older people was also seen in beans.

Prof Wranham added: "It raises the possibility that we are seeing behavioural systems that have been shared evolutionarily back to our common ancestor around seven or eight million years ago".

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