Recent study conducted at the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, in Uganda, by Felix Warneken and colleagues of the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, published in July's edition of PloS Biology, provides unambiguous experimental evidence that chimpanzees act altruistically toward genetically unrelated individuals (even outside of their own specie). That is in contrary to the previous studies that argued that altruism is unique to humans (or that only humans would help others, not only without personal gain, but even at a cost to themselves).
Warneken study clearly demonstrates that the evolutionary roots of human altruism reach at least as far back as the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees. It also raises an important question of how altruism could have evolved in the world of selfish genes? Frans de Waal tries to give the answer to this and other questions in PLoS Biology primer.
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