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Attractive Females Win All the Arguments, Bonobo Study

Update Date: Jul 15, 2013 02:45 PM EDT

A new study on bonobos revealed that attractive females are more likely to win conflicts against males.

Scientists found that female bonobos were more likely to win conflicts against males during times when they exhibit sexual swellings, indicating elevated fecundity.

However, attractiveness isn't the only weapon females have against males. Researchers found that female motivation to help offspring was also another significant factor in determining the outcome of intersexual conflicts. Researchers explain that whenever females defend their offspring against male aggression, either alone or in groups, males are more likely to defer to females.

"In those situations, males also aggress females less often, which is different from chimpanzees, our other closest living relatives," first study author Dr. Martin Surbeck said in a news release.

Researchers explain that while intersexual dominance relations in bonobos have never been thoroughly studies in the wild, several ideas exist of how females get their dominance status.  Some scientists say that bonobo female dominance is facilitated by females forming coalitions, which suppress male aggression. Other researchers think of an evolutionary scenario in which females prefer non-aggressive males which renders male aggressiveness to a non-adaptive trait.

Not only is there is a sex-independent dominance hierarchy with several females occupying top ranks, the latest findings indicate that in bonobos both female sexuality and male mating strategies are involved in the shifting dominance relationships between the sexes.

The latest findings are published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

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