Chimpanzee facts for kids
Quick facts for kidsChimpanzees
|Adult female and infant common chimpanzees feeding on Ficus|
Chimpanzees are great apes. They live in Africa. They are social, intelligent creatures that can be aggressive toward other species.
- Genus Pan: Chimpanzees
- Common chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes
- Bonobo or Pygmy (small) chimpanzee, Pan paniscus
The common chimpanzee lives in West and Central Africa. The bonobo lives in the rain forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The two species live on opposite sides of the Congo River.
Life and description
Chimpanzees mainly eat fruit, leaves, flowers, seeds, bark, honey, insects, bird eggs, and meat. They spend a lot of time acting up, playing, and chatting with other chimpanzees from their group. Sometimes they will groom each other, combing and looking through each other's thick fur and picking out the dirt and insects. Grooming helps chimps feel comfortable and friendly.
Like gorillas and orangutans, chimpanzees are bipeds. They can walk on two feet, but they prefer to move about on all four legs. On the ground, they walk on their hind feet and knuckles. They have hands that look like human hands, but their thumbs are shorter than those of humans. At night, chimpanzees sleep in nests that they make on tree branches. They bend twigs and tuck in leaves to make a soft platform to rest in a place that is safe from enemies on the ground.
Chimpanzees give birth to live young. The gestation period of chimpanzees lasts between six and eight months. Usually only one offspring is produced; they rarely have twins. Chimpanzees live up to 60 years in the wild.
Jane Goodall has studied chimpanzees since 1960. She observed how chimpanzees use tools in several ways. They will pick up rocks to crack nuts for a meal. They also strip down twigs and stick them into a termite mound to collect a tasty snack. Some have been known to make a sponge from leaves in order to hold more drinking water. The chimp chews leaves to soften them up, dips them in rainwater, and then squeezes the water into its mouth. Chimpanzees are also known to think ahead and solve problems.
The behavior described in this section refers to the common chimpanzee. At present, there is no evidence that the bonobo has a similar level of aggressive behavior.
Chimpanzees attack Colobus monkeys by working as a team to corner them in the high branches of the trees. Then they tear the monkey apart and eat it. It is thought the main benefit is that meat is a more rich source of nutrition than their usual vegetarian diet.
Attacking other chimpanzee groups
If they can, males work together to try to kill other male monkeys. They usually focus on males that are alone. They kill them one by one and adopt the females from his group. Attacks like this are carefully planned, done only when success is likely, and carried out in silence.
The advantage for the males that triumph is to breed more children. Their tribe also holds more land and so has access to more food. Several authors have compared this behavior with the beginning of human warfare.
Chimpanzees show their emotions with their faces and sounds. They make hooting sounds to express the discovery of food, and the face of a chimpanzee with a scowling face and lips pressed is to express annoyance. This means the chimpanzee may attack. Or, the chimpanzee may show its teeth to express that it is afraid or that a more dominant chimp is approaching.
Relationship with humans
According to a genome study done by the Chimpanzee Sequencing and Analysis Consortium, humans share either 95% or 96% of their DNA with chimpanzees. However, this applies only to single nucleotide polymorphisms, that is, changes in single base pairs only. The full picture is rather different.
24% of the chimpanzee genome does not align with the human genome, and so cannot be directly compared. There are more differences as well, totaling at least 30% differences between chimpanzee and Homo sapiens genomes.
Interesting facts about chimpanzees
- In captivity, chimpanzees have been able to learn American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with caregivers.
- An infant chimpanzee will cling to its mother’s fur and ride on her back until about age three.
- Baby chimpanzees can be identified by their small size and a tuft of white hair on their backside.
- A chimpanzee is about four times stronger than a human of the same size.
- Chimpanzees build a new nest nightly, which means that their bed is always clean.
- Chimps are poor swimmers because they are top-heavy and have a low body fat percentage.
- Chimpanzees have senses similar to the five senses humans have.
- Bonobos and chimpanzees were once thought to be one species.
- Scientists have found that chimps are able to learn and create simple games like a 4-year-old child can create.
- Chimpanzees have been shown to have their own individual personalities.
Images for kids
Relationships among apes. The branch lengths are a measure of evolutionary distinctness. Based on genome sequencing by The Chimpanzee Sequencing and Analysis Consortium. Figure from Yousaf et al. 2021, adapted from Prado-Martinez et al. 2013.
Mutual grooming, removing lice
Adult male eastern chimpanzee snatches a dead bushbuck antelope from a baboon in Gombe Stream National Park
Hugo Rheinhold's Affe mit Schädel ("Ape with skull"), c. 1893
Ham, the first great ape in space, before being inserted into his Mercury-Redstone 2 capsule on January 31, 1961
Feeding station at Gombe, where Jane Goodall used to feed and observe the chimpanzees