University of Stirling

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News Archive

September 2007

Chimpanzees Share Forbidden Fruit

Live Liver Donation: Fears for Donors

Chimpanzees Share Forbidden Fruit

Date released: Wednesday 12 September 2007

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and the same could be said for female chimpanzees. Researchers studying wild chimps in West Africa have discovered that males pinch desirable fruits from local farms and orchards as a means of attracting female mates.

Lead researcher, Dr Kimberley Hockings from the University of Stirling’s Department of Psychology said: “We believe the males may be using crop-raids as a way to advertise their prowess to other group-members, especially the opposite sex. Such daring behaviour certainly seems to be an attractive trait and possessing a sought-after food item, such as papaya, appears to draw even more positive attention from the females.”

The study, which took place in the West African village of Bossou in the Republic of Guinea, is the only recorded example of regular sharing of plant foods by unrelated, non-provisioned wild chimpanzees.

Dr Hockings explained: “It is unusual behaviour as even though the major part of chimpanzees’ diets consists of plant foods, wild plant food sharing (defined as an individual holding a food item but allowing another individual to consume part of that item) occurs infrequently. However, in chimpanzee communities that engage in hunting, meat is frequently used as a ‘social tool’ for nurturing alliances and social bonds. This research shows that chimpanzees at Bossou use crop-raiding as an opportunity to obtain and share desirable foods, providing further insights into the evolutionary basis of human food sharing. In humans, the pursuit of certain foods is also strongly sex-biased; for example, it has been proposed that men in hunter-gatherer societies acquire large and risky-to-obtain food packages for social strategising and to garner attention.”

The researchers found that adult males mainly shared the spoils of their crop-raids with females of reproductive age; particularly with a female within the group who took part in most consortships (where an adult female and an adult male chimpanzee move to the periphery of their community so that the male gains exclusive mating access).

Dr Hockings said: “The male who shared the most food with this female engaged in more consortships with her and received more grooming from her than the other males, even the alpha male. Therefore the male chimpanzees appear to be ‘showing off’ and trading their forbidden fruit for other currencies, i.e. ‘food-for-sex and–grooming’.”

The full paper will published in the Public Library of Science’s journal, PLoS ONE on Wednesday 12 September: www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0000886 where video clips of the chimps can also be viewed.

Lesley Wilkinson
Media Relations Manager
University of Stirling
(01786) 467058

 

 
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Live Liver Donation: Fears for Donors

Date released: Friday 14 September 2007

Patients in Scotland who need a new liver are declining living donor transplants from relatives because they see it as too much of a risk for their loved one.

This is the conclusion reached by University of Stirling researcher Lesley McGregor and fellow researchers at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Miss McGregor will reveal the groups’ findings today (Friday 14 September 2007) at the Division of Health Psychology Annual Conference at the University of Nottingham.

The Living Donor Liver Transplantation programme was introduced at the Scottish Liver Transplant Unit in April 2006. This was the first time this had become available on the NHS for patients needing a liver transplant but so far no patients in Scotland have pursued the option.

The researchers questioned patients who were suitable for the procedure and potential donors to discover why this was. In many regions of the world living liver donation is common.

They found that the biggest problem was that patients felt that they ‘couldn’t live with themselves’ if anything adverse happened to the donor as a result of the operation. The risk of death for the donor in liver transplants is estimated to be between around 0.5 and 1 per cent – far higher than the risk of death in donating a kidney (0.03 per cent). In addition, the risk of complications arising from the operation is thought to be around 40–60 per cent.

In contrast, many potential donors did not appear to consider the risk involved, as they were too focused on helping their loved one survive.

Miss McGregor said: “The patients didn’t want their loved ones to donate because they knew they would have to give up approximately two thirds of their healthy liver, with roughly a one in 200 chance of death. But the potential donors just wanted to help their ill relative, irrespective of the risk, which has the potential to cause significant tension within the family unit.”

She added: “We think that these results are important as we need to achieve a deeper understanding of the attitudes, concerns and risk perceptions of patients and their families faced with this type of surgical option.”

Lesley Wilkinson
Media Relations Manager
(01786) 467058

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