Chimpanzees feel love when they share food, study shows

A new study shows that chimpanzees who share food develop strong bonds with each other. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society.

An international study published Wednesday by a British biological science journal revealed that chimpanzees that share food have higher urinary levels of the “love hormone,” oxytocin, than their counterparts, the Associated Press reported.

In the past, increased oxytocin levels have been linked to breastfeeding and the close bond developed between mother and infant – both human and primate.

Both chimps who gave food and chimps who received food had similar levels of oxytocin, the study says. This “mutual increase in positive attitude” is thought to lead to “stronger social bonds and longer-term benefits,” which are often reserved for animals that are related to each other. It is “unusual” to observe them in non-relatives, the report says.

And the act of breaking bread together may have a similar effect on the development and maintenance of human relationships, the study concludes.

“Food sharing may, in effect, act as a trigger and predictor of cooperative relationships. This link between food sharing and oxytocin found in chimpanzees may also be relevant for humans, where pro-social behavior has often been linked to food sharing and provisioning.”

The study was performed on wild Ugandan chimpanzees by German, Swiss, British and American scientists and was released in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a publication of the UK’s national academy of science that is dedicated to the biological sciences.

H/T Zachary Treu