Here are three interesting articles on the social life of chimpanzees, on how they learn, fight, and console.
Prestige Affects Cultural Learning in Chimpanzees
Humans follow the example of prestigious, high-status individuals much more readily than that of others, such as when we copy the behavior of village elders, community leaders, or celebrities. This tendency has been declared uniquely human, yet remains untested in other species. Experimental studies of animal learning have typically focused on the learning mechanism rather than on social issues, such as who learns from whom. The latter, however, is essential to understanding how habits spread. Here we report that when given opportunities to watch alternative solutions to a foraging problem performed by two different models of their own species, chimpanzees preferentially copy the method shown by the older, higher-ranking individual with a prior track-record of success. Since both solutions were equally difficult, shown an equal number of times by each model and resulted in equal rewards, we interpret this outcome as evidence that the preferred model in each of the two groups tested enjoyed a significant degree of prestige in terms of whose example other chimpanzees chose to follow. Such prestige-based cultural transmission is a phenomenon shared with our own species. If similar biases operate in wild animal populations, the adoption of culturally transmitted innovations may be significantly shaped by the characteristics of performers.
Why chimpanzees attack and kill each other
Chimpanzees (along with bonobos) are humans' closest living relatives. Anthropologists have long known that they kill their neighbors, and they suspected that they did so to seize their land. "Although some previous observations appear to support that hypothesis, until now, we have lacked clear-cut evidence," Mitani said.
The bouts occurred when the primates were on routine, stealth "boundary patrols" into neighboring territory. Amsler, who conducted field work on this project described one of the attacks she witnessed far to the northwest of the Ngogo territory. She and a colleague were following 27 adult and adolescent males and one adult female.
"They had been on patrol outside of their territory for more than two hours when they surprised a small group of females from the community to the northwest," Amsler said. "Almost immediately upon making contact, the adult males in the patrol party began attacking the unknown females, two of whom were carrying dependent infants."
Simian Solicitude: Like Humans, Chimpanzees Console Victims of Aggression
Chimpanzees may comfort others in distress in ways very similar to how people do, according to what may be the largest study of consolation in animals by far. The new findings in our closest living relatives could help shed light on the roots of empathy in humans.
The spontaneous consolation of someone in distress with a hug, a pat on the back or other friendly display of physical contact has been studied in human children as a sign of sympathetic concern for others for decades. This kind of demonstrative empathy is often thought to be a large part of what sets humanity apart from other animals.