Chimpanzee, sometimes colloquially chimp, is the common name for the two extant species of ape in the genus Pan. The Congo River forms the boundary between the native habitat of the two species: Common chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes (West and Central Africa) Bonobo, Pan paniscus (forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Four subspecies are commonly recognized: the West African Chimpanzee Pan troglodytes verus; the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee P. t. ellioti; the Central Chimpanzee P. t. troglodytes; and the Eastern Chimpanzee P. t. schweinfurthii. Recent mitochondrial DNA work (Gonder et al. 2006) shows that schweinfurthii is embedded in troglodytes, and suggests that there are only two major clades of chimpanzees: Pan troglodytes ellioti in West Africa and P. t. troglodytes in Central and East Africa.
Chimpanzees have a wide but discontinuous distribution in Equatorial Africa between 13 degrees North and 7 degrees South. They occur from southern Senegal across the forested belt north of the Congo River to western Uganda and western Tanzania, from sea-level to 2,800 m asl.
Some argue that chimpanzees should be categorized in the same genus as humans, Homo, based on the fact that chimpanzees and humans diverged only 4 to 6 million years ago (Groves 2001). The implications of changing the taxonomical categorization could have enormous impacts on how chimpanzees are perceived and the rights extended to them.
Chimpanzees exhibit very little morphological differences between subspecies. They have a more robust build than bonobos (Pan paniscus) and are slightly sexually dimorphic with males, on average, weighing 40 to 60 kg (88.2 to 132 lb) and females, on average, weighing 32 to 47 kg (70.5 to 104 lb) (Rowe 1996). Males and females have an average height of 816 mm (2.68 ft) (Rowe 1996).
Today, we know that chimpanzees everywhere eat mainly fruit, but are also predators in their forest ecosystems. In some sites the quantity of meat eaten by a chimpanzee community may approach one ton annually. Recently revealed aspects of predation by chimpanzees, such as its frequency and the use of meat as a political and reproductive tool, have important implications for research on the origins of human behavior. These findings come at a time when many anthropologists argue for scavenging rather than hunting as a way of life for early human ancestors. Research into the hunting ecology of wild chimpanzees may therefore shed new light on the current debate about the origins of human behavior.
Chimpanzees are largely fruit eaters, and meat composes only about 3% of the time they spent eating overall, less than in nearly all human societies. Adult and adolescent males do most of the hunting, making about 90% of the kills recorded at Gombe over the past decade. Females also hunt, though more often they receive a share of meat from the male who either captured the meat or stole it from the captor.
Chimpanzees are our closest relative. (A difference of less than 1 percent exists between the DNA of humans and chimps.) Like humans, chimp young are born helpless and require a number of years of careful rearing before they are able to go out on their own. Chimps are very social and form tight bonds within their community.
Jane Goodall was the first to observe chimpanzees stripping branches from twigs to create a tool for scooping up termites from their nest. This observation revolutionized the definition of humans as the only toolmakers in the animal kingdom.
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.
Chimpanzees are large primates that have long yet sparse black hairs covering their bodies with the exception of their face, palms and the soles of their feet. Their hair not only allows them to remain warm in areas at higher altitudes but it also provides their skin with some protection from the sun. The hairless parts of their bodies are light to dark brown in colour depending on the age of the individual (their skin darkens as they mature).