Chimpanzees are large primates with long black hairs that cover their bodies sparely, exception for their palms, their faces, and the soles of their two feet. The parts of their bodies that are hairless are colored light to dark brown, depending on the individual’s age. They have large ears and over their eyes is a heavy brow-ridge. Chimpanzees have good sight and can see in color. Their fingers are long and they have an opposable big toe. With arms longer than their legs, chimpanzees are able to get about on all fours, known as knuckle-walking. They have 32 teeth, very similar to human teeth. Get full knowledge about chimpanzees with the help of this article written by Pritish Halder.
The chimpanzee lives in groups that range in size from 15 to 150 members, although individuals travel and forage in much smaller groups during the day. The species lives in a strict male-dominated hierarchy, where disputes are generally settled without the need for violence. Nearly all chimpanzee populations have been recorded using tools, modifying sticks, rocks, grass and leaves and using them for hunting and acquiring honey, termites, ants, nuts and water. The species has also been found creating sharpened sticks to spear small mammals. Its gestation period is eight months. The infant is weaned at about three years old but usually maintains a close relationship with its mother for several years more.
Chimpanzees inhabit tropical forests in central Africa and are found from Uganda in the east to Gambia in the west, except for the area bordered by the Lualaba and Congo rivers in central Zaire (Congo). These primates inhabit a range of different areas, from tropical, humid rainforests to dryer and more arid savanna and open woodland areas.
The chimpanzee is more robustly built than the bonobo but less than the gorilla. The arms of a chimpanzee are longer than its legs and can reach below the knees. The hands have long fingers with short thumbs and flat fingernails. The feet are adapted for grasping, and the big toe is opposable. The pelvis is long with an extended ilium.
A chimpanzee’s head is rounded with a prominent and prognathous face and a pronounced brow ridge. It has forward-facing eyes, a small nose, rounded non-lobed ears, a long mobile upper lip. Additionally, adult males have sharp canine teeth. Chimpanzees lack the prominent sagittal crest and associated head and neck musculature of gorillas.
Chimpanzee bodies are covered by coarse hair, except for the face, fingers, toes, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet. Chimpanzees lose more hair as they age and develop bald spots. The hair of a chimpanzee is typically black but can be brown or ginger. As they get older, white or grey patches may appear, particularly on the chin and lower region. The skin may range from pale to dark, though females develop swelling pink skin when in oestrus.
Chimpanzees are adapted for both arboreal and terrestrial locomotion. Arboreal locomotion consists of vertical climbing and brachiation. On the ground, chimpanzees move both quadrupedally and bipedally.
These movements appear to have similar energy costs. As with bonobos and gorillas, chimpanzees move quadrupedally by knuckle-walking, which probably evolved independently in Pan and Gorilla.
The physical strength of chimps is around 1.5 times greater than humans due to higher content of fast twitch muscle fibres, one of the chimpanzee’s adaptations for climbing and swinging.
According to Japan’s Asahiyama Zoo, the grip strength of an adult chimpanzee is estimated to be 200 kg (441 lb), while other sources claim figures of up to 330 kg (727 lb).
Habits and Lifestyle
Chimpanzees are very sociable animals, active during daylight hours, and spending their time feeding, grooming and playing with the members of their group. The size of a group can range from 15 to 120, depending on the habitat and how much food is available. They are very territorial with no tolerance for outsiders, and can even kill an individual from another group. At night chimpanzees make nests in trees by bending branches to construct a safe platform where they can sleep, building a new nest each day. Although a lot of time is spent sleeping and eating up in the trees, usually they travel on the ground along a network of path, balancing on their knuckles.
Diet and Nutrition
The chimpanzee is omnivorous and eats a huge variety of food. The main part of their diet consists of fruits, flowers and seeds picked from trees.
They also eat insects such as termites and ants, extracted from their nests by means of a stick. They also use chewed leaves to soak up water like a sponge, drinking the water from the leaf.
There is no clear breeding season for chimpanzees, and mating can take place at any time of the year, with babies born in any season. Gestation lasts for about 8 months and then a single infant is born. The mother and her baby remain in continual contact during their first year. At two years old, young chimpanzees are able to sit independently and move about.
They are weaned by 4 to 6 years. They learn survival skills by observing their mother to find out what to eat, how to build nests and make tools. Playing with other young chimpanzees allows them to practice grooming as well as wrestling skills. Females at 13 years of age are thought to be ready to reproduce, while males reach sexual maturity at about 16 years old.
The chimpanzee is on the IUCN list as being endangered in its natural habitat. Its biggest threats come from habitat destruction, disease and poaching. The illegal exotic pet trade provides incentives to poachers to hunt chimpanzees. Adults are killed for bushmeat or so that the poacher can take young chimpanzees to sell as pets.
According to IUCN Red List, as of 2003, the total Common chimpanzee population size was estimated to be 172,700–299,700 apes. Four subspecies of the Common chimpanzee have been recognized and current estimates for each subspecies are following: Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee – fewer than 6,000–9,000, Eastern chimpanzee – 181,000–256,000, Central chimpanzee – 140,000, Western chimpanzee – 18,000–65,000. Overall, currently Common chimpanzees are classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today are decreasing.
Chimpanzees, as predators, may have a role in controlling the populations of their prey. They have a large impact on the red colobus monkey, bush pigs and baboons by predating them. Chimpanzees may help with the dispersal of seeds of certain plants, through transportation, or by eating the fruit.
Fun Facts for Kids
- Chimpanzees are among the world’s most intelligent animals species. They can remember things and recognize themselves in a mirror.
- Chimpanzees exchange kisses, hugs, and affectionate touching, and use a complex system of sounds for communication.
- A chimpanzees is 6-7 times stronger than a human.
- To combat boredom, chimpanzees play various games.
- Chimpanzees in captivity have been able to learn human sign language.
- When ill, chimpanzees eat medicinal plants to cure themselves.