Attentive parenting appears across the animal world, but adoption is rarer, especially when youngsters taken in aren’t kin. Now researchers have witnessed bonobos adopting infants from outside of their own communities.
Two females, each from a different bonobo group, in the Luo Scientific Reserve in Congo took charge of orphans — grooming them, carrying them and providing food for at least a year. Two instances of adopted outsiders are known in other nonhuman primates, but this is the first time it’s been observed in great apes, researchers report March 18 in Scientific Reports.
During a week when the researchers couldn’t observe the bonobos, two groups each gained an infant. One mum named Marie was already caring for two infants when she adopted Flora, identified from her facial features and color patterns as formerly part of another group. Marie carried and breastfed Flora and her youngest biological daughter and groomed all three. “She seemed to be very tired but was a great mother,” says Nahoko Tokuyama, a primatologist at Kyoto University in Japan. Sometimes Marie favored her offspring, Tokuyama says, grooming them more frequently than she did Flora. [Continue reading…]