Chimpanzees, colloquially called chimps, are two extant hominid species of apes in the genus Pan. The Congo River divides the native habitats of the two species:
- Common chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes (West and Central Africa)
- Bonobo, Pan paniscus (forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Chimpanzees are members of the family Hominidae, along with humans, gorillas, and orangutans. They split from the human line about four to six million years ago, see Chimpanzee-human last common ancestor. Chimpanzees (subtribe Panina) are the closest living relatives to humans (subtribe Hominina); both are members of the tribe Hominini. Chimpanzees are the only known members of the subtribe Panina.
The chimpanzee is a highly intelligent primate. Chimpanzees differ from human beings by only one percent of their genetic material, making them our closest relative. They are also problem solvers who use a variety of tools, such as digging sticks and sponges made of bark or leaves. Chimpanzees also have a complex communication system and live within an elaborate, hierarchical social structure. Unlike humans, however, chimpanzees don’t swim.
The two Pan species, bonobo and common chimpanzee, split about one million years ago. This article uses the individual name when distinguishing one species or the other, and uses Pan or chimpanzee (or chimp) when both or either one is implied.
In the Real WorldEditChimpanzees are our closest living relatives, sharing more than 98 percent of our genetic blueprint. Humans and chimps are also thought to share a common ancestor who lived some four to eight million years ago.
Chimpanzees live in social communities of several dozen animals, and can habituate themselves to African rain forests, woodlands, and grasslands.
Although they normally walk on all fours (knuckle-walking), chimpanzees can stand and walk upright. By swinging from branch to branch they can also move quite efficiently in the trees, where they do most of their eating. Chimpanzees usually sleep in the trees as well, employing nests of leaves.Chimps are generally fruit and plant eaters, but they also consume insects, eggs, and meat, including carrion. They have a tremendously varied diet that includes hundreds of known foods.
Chimpanzees are one of the few animal species that employ tools. They shape and use sticks to retrieve insects from their nests or dig grubs out of logs. They also use stones to smash open tasty nuts and employ leaves as sponges to soak up drinking water. Chimpanzees can even be taught to use some basic human sign language.
Females can give birth at any time of year, typically to a single infant that clings to its mother's fur and later rides on her back until the age of two. Females reach reproductive age at 13, while males are not considered adults until they are 16 years old.
Although chimps and humans are closely related, the apes have suffered much at human hands. These great apes are endangered and still threatened by bushmeat hunters and habitat destruction.
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