Food Sharing

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True   Likely   Speculative
Human Uniqueness Compared to "Great Apes": 
Relative Difference
MOCA Domain: 

In nearly all human cultures, food sharing is a common practice, especially among families and friends and between potential mates. Food sharing occurs between healthy individuals and those that are infirm or elderly. In great apes, food sharing outside of the mother-infant dyad rarely occurs . After a hunt, male chimpanzees may share the meat from the kill with others who participated in the hunt. It has been suggested that ape males may also share food with females in exchange for sex (Gomes and Boesch 2009). Recently published work, however, reports that long term chimpanzee data indicates that such food-for-sex exchanges are quite rare and very different in nature from similar exchanges among humans (Gilby et al. 2010). 



Timing of appearance of the difference in the Hominin Lineage as a defined date or a lineage separation event. The point in time associated with lineage separation events may change in the future as the scientific community agrees upon better time estimates. Lineage separation events are defined in 2017 as:

  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and old world monkeys was 25,000 - 30,000 thousand (25 - 30 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and chimpanzees was 6,000 - 8,000 thousand (6 - 8 million) years ago
  • the emergence of the genus Homo was 2,000 thousand (2 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and neanderthals was 500 thousand years ago
  • the common ancestor of modern humans was 100 - 300 thousand years ago

Probable Appearance: 
2,000 thousand years ago
Definite Appearance: 
100 thousand years ago


  1. No evidence of short-term exchange of meat for sex among chimpanzees., Gilby, I. C., M Thompson Emery, Ruane J. D., and Wrangham R. , J Hum Evol, 2010 Jul, Volume 59, Issue 1, p.44-53, (2010)
  2. Wild Chimpanzees Exchange Meat for Sex on a Long-Term Basis, Gomes, C. M., and Boesch C. , PLoS ONE, 2009, Volume 4, Issue 4, p.e5116, (2009)
  3. To give or not to give: The behavioral ecology of human food transfers, Gurven, M. , Behavioral Brain Sciences, Volume 27, p.543-583, (2004)
  4. Hadza meat sharing., Hawkes, K, O'Connell J F., and Jones N G. Blurton , Evol Hum Behav, 2001 Mar, Volume 22, Issue 2, p.113-142, (2001)
  5. Why do chimpanzees hunt and share meat?, Mitani, J. C., and Watts D. P. , Animal Behavior, Volume 61, p.915-924, (2001)
  6. Tolerated Theft: Suggestions about the ecology and evolution of food sharing, hoarding, and scrounging. , Blurton-Jones, N. J. , Social Science Information, Volume 26, p.31-54, (1987)