Non-Humans — March 22, 2011
Evolution’s gift of play, from bonobo apes to humans
With never before seen video, primatologist Isabel Behncke Izquierdo shows how bonobo ape society learns from constantly playing — solo, with friends, even as a prelude to sex. Indeed, play appears to be the bonobos’ key to problem-solving and avoiding conflict.
TED Fellow Isabel Behncke Izquierdo writes:
I was born and raised in Chile, and was educated in animal behaviour and evolutionary anthropology in Cambridge and Oxford. For my PhD work, I study the social behaviour (and play behaviour in particular) of wild bonobos in DR Congo.
Bonobos are, together with chimpanzees, our living closest relatives; however we know very little about them — mostly through captive work. In Wamba, a most remote jungle location, I have observed unique aspects of bonobo lives (from imaginary play and laughter to inter-group encounters to accidents and death) that challenge and illuminate our understanding of human evolution. I aim to link the play of adult bonobos to insights on human laughter, joy, creativity and our capacity for wonder and exploration.
“Play is the glue that binds us together… Play is our adaptive wild card in order to adapt successfully to a changing world…. will we make the most of our playfulness? Play is not frivolous, play is essential.”
To learn more about Isabel Behncke:
To learn more about work done with bonobos and other apes:
Dunbar offers a wonderfully accessible, up-to-the-minute account of human evolution. Of the dozen or so hominid species once in existence, why are we the only one to have survived? What is it that sets us so firmly apart from all the other creatures with whom we share the planet? How and when did that separation come about? This is an up-to-the-minute account of human evolution that has completely superseded The Naked Ape, and deserves its place at the high table of popular science. . . Dunbar leaves the reader with a sobering message: we might be different, but that doesn't make us better.