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Professor presents new research on chimpanzee interaction
After eight years of studying a chimpanzee community located in Western Uganda, an Ohio University assistant professor recently presented a breakthrough.
Hogan Sherrow, an OU professor of evolutionary anthropology, is the first to report the observation of dominant relationships among adolescent male chimpanzees. However, chimpanzees are nothing new for Sherrow, who has been studying them for more than a decade.
“When I was eight years old, my mom gave me a National Geographic magazine with Jane Goodall on the cover,” Sherrow said. “I read it over and over again and told them that when I grew up I was going to be a primatologist.”
Sherrow studied the Ngogo community of chimpanzees, which has more than 150 chimps, making it the largest chimpanzee community in the Kibale National Park in Western Uganda.
“I observed adolescent male chimpanzees consistently pant grunting to one another in a unidirectional pattern,” he said. “Pant grunts are calls given by a subordinate individual to a dominant individual.”
Sherrow said that he isn’t sure why the chimpanzees only form these relationships at Ngogo and nowhere else.
“It may be that the number of males at Ngogo forces the adolescent males to compete earlier than at other sites,” Sherrow said. “Dominance in adult males is based on a combination of size, strength and the ability to form alliances. In adolescent males it is based on size and presumably age.”
The American Society of Primatologists, the Sigma Xi Foundation and the John F. Enders Foundation provided support for Sherrow’s research.
“It’s really gratifying to have organizations that are willing to support basic research in behavioral studies,” Sherrow said.
Gene Ammarell, an associate professor of cultural anthropology at OU, said that Sherrow’s work is regarded professionally.
“He gets grants and gets the recognition he deserves,” Ammarell said. “I respect the work he does.”
Sherrow said he thinks we can learn from chimps.
“As our closest living relatives, along with bonobos, chimpanzees can tell us a lot about our ancestry and ourselves,” Sherrow said. “We can learn about the behavior of our earliest hominine ancestors by watching chimpanzees and bonobos and from that we can learn a lot about ourselves and what it means to be human.”