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Monkeys hug to avoid gang violence!

Posted Oct 10 2008 2:10pm

Last month the science magazine "Nature" published the following article about how monkeys who hug are less aggressive.  Read on !

When British politician David Cameron advocated affection as a solution to antisocial behaviour and petty crime, his speech was mockingly labelled 'Hug-a-Hoodie'. But no one realised that there is a precedent in the animal kingdom — spider monkeys in Mexico have been observed embracing to avoid gang violence.

Hugging diffuses the tension when two bands of monkeys meet, say the British researchers who made the discovery. Without these calming embraces, the situation can escalate into aggression and even physical attacks, they report. The researchers studied wild spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi), which live in the forests of Central and South America.

These monkeys live in large groups, but split into short-lived, constantly changing groups of a few individuals to travel more easily in search of food. The small gangs bumps into one another frequently. If the other monkeys are seen as rivals, there is a danger that fighting will erupt. Hugging seems to be a way to ease the tension — aggressive encounters such as chases are more likely to happen among monkeys that do not embrace first. Hug-happy meetings have much lower levels of aggression, Aureli and his colleague Colleen Schaffner of the University of Chester report.

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