Cooperation in wild chimpanzees

John Mitani
Date and Time: 
Friday, March 1, 2013 - 2:15pm

Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)


An enduring problem in the study of animal and human behavior involves why individuals cooperate. Considerable theoretical attention has been devoted to attempting to explain the evolution of cooperation in diverse taxa, ranging from insects to primates. Empirically, why males cooperate generates significant interest. This is because males compete to fertilize females, something that is neither easily shared nor divided. In this talk, I review findings from my long-term study of an unusually large community of chimpanzees at Ngogo in the Kibale National Park, Uganda. My observations of coalitionary behavior, meat sharing, and territoriality provide new insights into male chimpanzee cooperation.


John Mitani is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. He investigates the behavior of wild chimpanzees and is interested in comparisons between human and chimp behavior in order to illuminate perennial questions about the course of human evolution.

His current research involves a long-term field investigation of chimpanzees at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda. This project, initiated in the summer of 1995 with David Watts, has been of special interest given the unique nature of the Ngogo chimpanzees. With about 180 members, the Ngogo community is exceptionally large, dwarfing all other groups described in the wild thus far. He has taken advantage of the unusual demographic structure of this community to investigate and document new and intriguing patterns of chimpanzee behavior. Research to date has provided novel findings with respect to the effect of kinship on social behavior, cooperation, hunting, and territoriality.

EcoGroup (Anthro 364): Ecology and Environment Winter Colloquium Series