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Social networks key to understanding chimpanzee civil war


A long-standing mystery about a chimpanzee civil war might have finally been solved, thanks to social networking. Back in 1971, a group of chimpanzees in Tanzaina's Gombe Stream national park suddenly split into two factions and spent the next four years trying to wipe each other out. Researcher Jane Goodall, who has monitored activity in the park for the last 50 years was at a loss to work out what had caused the violent shift in the group's dynamic. Now, however, Joseph Feldblum at Duke University in North Carolina analyzed the data as if it was a social network, identifying which members of the group spent time with other and looking at the connections.

According to the findings, the split seems to have been caused when a senior male called Leakey died in 1970. After which, there was a power struggle between a pair of brother chimps from the south and a chimp from the north. When no victor could be found, the groups retreated with their leaders, and subsequently the northern group killed the males from the southern one. The research is being celebrated as a way that we can learn how human social groups fracture over time -- so hopefully the next time there's some drama on Facebook, you'll just need to click a button and you'll instantly unfriend whoever the algorithms believe you'll want to dump.

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