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Chimpanzees are great apes that are closely related to humans. These intelligent primates live in a variety of environments in western and central Africa. Because of the rapid deforestation of their habitats, chimpanzees are an endangered species.
Chimpanzees have very long arms (the arms are longer than the legs), and a short body.
Hair and Skin:
Chimpanzees are covered with black hair on most of their body (except their fingers, palms, armpits, and bottoms of their feet). Baby chimpanzees have very pale skin in the areas that have no hair and a white tuft of hair on the rump.
Chimpanzees have senses very similar to ours, including hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch.
Chimpanzees have a slight brow ridge, large ears, small nostrils, and an elongated snout. They are capable of many expressions. Chimpanzees have a hairless face except for a short, white beard in both male and female adults. Some adult females become bald.
Hands and Feet:
Chimpanzees' hands are very much like ours; they have four long fingers plus an opposable thumb (the thumb is shorter than the other fingers). Their feet have five toes, including an opposable big toe. Chimpanzees can grasp things with both their hands and their feet.
Male chimpanzees are larger than the females.
|Chimpanzees ||Height ||Weight
|Female ||2-3.5 ft (0.66 -1 m) ||57 -110 pounds (26 - 50 kg)
|Male ||3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m) ||90 - 115 pounds (35 - 70 kg)
Chimpanzees are omnivores (eating plants and meat). They forage for food in the forests during the day, eating leaves, fruit, seeds, tree bark, plant bulbs, tender plant shoots, and flowers. They also eat termites, ants, and small animals (they have even been known to eat young monkeys).
Chimpanzees drink water, often by using a chewed leaf as a sponge to sop up the water.
INTELLIGENCE AND TOOLS
Chimpanzees are very intelligent and can learn extremely complex tasks.
Chimpanzees often use tools in the wild. They have been observed using sticks to obtain ants and termites to eat and to scare away intruders. They also use chewed-up leaves like a sponge to sop up water to drink.
BEHAVIOR AND SOCIAL HABITS
Groups of Chimpanzees:
Chimpanzees are social animals that are active during the day (they are diurnal). They live in small, stable groups (called communities or unit groups) of about 40-60 individuals. Smaller subgroups of 6-7 chimps stay together for a while, with the membership changing over time.
Grooming one another (cleaning the hair of another chimp) is a major occupation among chimpanzees in a group.
Each evening, chimpanzees construct a fresh "sleeping nest" in the trees where they will curl up and sleep. These bowl-shaped nests are made out of leaves and other plant material. Nests are only shared by a mother and her nursing offspring.
Young chimpanzees play a lot, learning skills they will use as an adult. They practice using tools, making sleeping nests, climbing, wrestling, etc.
COMMUNICATION AND VOCALIZATION
Communication is used to teach the young the many skills that they need to survive, and to convey information to other chimpanzees about food, social relationships, distress, mating, etc.
Chimpanzees have a complex system of communication. They have cries that warn other chimps of danger in the area; their danger call can be heard through the forest for about 2 miles (3 km). When there is an abundance of food, chimps bark loudly to call the others in their group to a feast.
Chimpanzees also use many gestures to indicate needs and emotions. Chimps will beg other chimps for food by approaching them with open hands. Friends may hold hands, hug, or even kiss. A worried chimp makes a lip-puckering face. A frightened chimp will bare its teeth. A smile indicates a relaxed, friendly chimp. When the lips are tightly pressed together, the chimp is ready to attack.
Chimpanzees usually walk using all fours (on the soles of feet and the knuckles of their hands). They can walk upright (when they need to use their arms to carry something), but usually don't. Chimps are also very good at climbing trees, where they spend much of their time, including when they sleep. They can swing from branch to branch in the trees (this is called brachiating).
Chimpanzees live about 60 years in captivity; their life span in the wild is only about 35-40 years (like most animals, they live much longer in captivity).
Chimpanzees live in a wide variety of habitats, including tropical rain forests (in the forest edges and clearings), woodlands, swamp forests, and grasslands in western Africa.
The different subspecies of chimpanzees live in different parts of western and central Africa in 21 different countries, from the Atlantic coast to well inland.
Chimpanzee populations are becoming increasingly fragmented as parts of their habitat are used by people.
REPRODUCTION AND BABY CHIMPANZEES
Chimpanzees are fully grown and able to reproduce at 12-13 years old. Female chimpanzees are pregnant for about 8.5-9 months and usually have a single baby at a time; twins are rare.
Female chimpanzees carefully nurture their young. Babies can grasp their mother's fur to ride on the mother's back at about 6 months. After they are weaned, chimpanzees begin to build their own sleeping nests out of vegetation and not use their mother's nest anymore. Young chimpanzees stay with their mother for about 7 years.
Chimpanzee populations are decreasing; they are threatened with extinction. Population numbers are disputed. Estimates range from 100,000 to 200,000.
Jane Goodall is a scientist who spent most of her adult life observing chimpanzees in the wild in Gombe National Park, Tanzania ( it was then the Gombe Stream Reserve in what was then Tanganyika), Africa. Her field-work, which lasted for almost 30 years (from 1960 to 1986), has given us a tremendous amount of information about these social animals whose behavior is very similar to that of humans.
THE EVOLUTION OF CHIMPANZEES
The earliest-known primates date from about 70 million years ago (Macdonald, 1985). The greater apes (family Pongidae, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans) split off from the lesser apes (family Hylobatidae, gibbons and siamangs) 20 million years ago.
The chimpanzee is the animal that is closest to people genetically; people and chimps have very similar DNA (about 98% of human and chimpanzee DNA is identical). Genetic studies show that chimpanzees and humans share a common ancestor.
Chimpanzees belong to the:
CHIMPANZEE WEB LINKS
- Kingdom Animalia (all animals)
- Phylum Chordata
- Subphylum Vertebrata (animals with backbones)
- Class Mammalia (warm-blooded animals with fur and mammary glands)
- Order Primates (which is comprised of 11 families, including lemurs, monkeys, marmosets, lesser apes, great apes, and humans)
- Family Pongidae (the great apes, including gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans)
- Genus Pan (chimpanzees and bonobos)
- Species troglodytes - the Chimpanzee
- Subspecies P. t. verus - the western subspecies (found in Côte d'Ivoire, plus some small populations in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia).
- Subspecies P. t. troglodytes - the central subspecies (found mostly in Gabon, also from eastern Nigeria to the Ubanghi River and south to the Zaire River).
- Subspecies P. t. schweinfurthi - the eastern subspecies studied by Jane Goodall (found from southern Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, and from there northwards to Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and southern Sudan).
- Species paniscus - the Bonobo or pygmy chimp, from Zaire, along the Zaire river.
Chimpanzees from the Jane Goodall Institute.
Emory University's Living Links, A Center for the Advanced Study of Ape and Human Evolution.
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