Chimpanzees are truly amazing creatures. Not only are they our closest animal relatives, but they’re intelligent, great at problem-solving, and adaptable in many conditions. Still, there might be some things you didn’t know about these amazing apes. Here are eight fun facts about these animals. You might have more in common with a chimp than you first thought!
8. They Share Almost 99% of Our DNA
Ever wondered why chimpanzees seem so familiar, almost like long-lost cousins? We share a striking 99% of our DNA with these fascinating primates! But what does this mean? Well:
- We might have a common ancestor. Sure, all living things come from one organism. Yet, when it comes to the animal kingdom family tree, we’re closer to chimps and bonobos than other living things.
- We have behavioral parallels. Because of the genetic overlap, we have a lot of things in common with chimps––and not just how we look, but how we interact with each other. Just like apes, we live in communities, rely on advanced cognitive skills, and have different forms of communication.
- Our similarities benefit medical professionals. Studying chimp DNA lets researchers learn what treatments can address illnesses and other deficiencies in humans.
7. They Can Laugh and Smile
Chimpanzees possess the ability to express joy through laughter and smiles, much like humans. Whether it's during play or when tickled, chimps produce a characteristic panting sound similar to human laughter.
But the laughter of chimps serves a social function as well, especially among lower-ranking individuals who tend to laugh more during play sessions. This difference in behavior is believed to be a form of submission, a signal to their higher-ranking peers to maintain social harmony.
Yet, while chimps smile like humans, this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Chimps often bare their teeth as a way of saying, “I’m uncomfortable.” If you’re ever at a zoo, and you smile at a chimp, it might think you want to fight! Be careful; if provoked, chimps can be dangerous.
6. Chimps Have Hierarchical Communities
Chimpanzees are social animals, living in large communities. These communities can vary greatly in size and composition, depending on factors such as food availability, social alliances, and threats from predators or rival groups.
Most chimpanzee communities (called “troops”) revolve around a dominant male, females, and their offspring. Here’s something interesting: when a male chimp grows up, he remains in his community for life. This is different than female chimps, who will leave the troop in search of a mate. This promotes genetic diversity and prevents conflict.
5. Chimps Use Tools
Chimps are one of many animals that rely on tools. However, how they rely on these tools is unique. For instance, an ape may use:
- Sticks to engage in “termite fishing.” Here, a chimp sits in front of a termite mound and identifies the entry point. Then, it’ll insert a stick. The termites will cover the stick, hoping to eliminate the threat. The chimp withdraws the stick, which is covered in ants, and licks it clean.
- Branches as umbrellas. Chimps don’t like getting wet. So, they may use leaves and branches to shield themselves from rainfall. They sometimes even use leaves as parasols when it’s too sunny outside!
- Leaves as sponges. There are no cups, mugs, or jugs in the wild. So, chimps use leaves! They soak the leaves in water, then wring them into their mouths.
Chimps are also one of many animals that have learned to communicate using sign language. This highlights their advanced cognitive processing and ability to learn new skills.
4. They Are Highly Expressive
Chimpanzees are extraordinarily expressive, using a combination of vocalizations, gestures, facial expressions, and body postures to communicate. Here’s what to know:
- Chimps routinely partake in grooming one another to strengthen social bonds. It’s kind of like letting your friend braid your hair.
- Some chimps have vocalizations that vary from troop to troop. It’s like one community having a different dialect than the other.
- Chimps can get loud! Sometimes, they’ll hoot, holler, and make other sounds to communicate with rival troops miles away.
3. They Have Exceptional Memory
Chimps have exceptionally developed memories. They're known to remember the locations of fruit trees and other food sources in their vast forest territories, spanning several square kilometers. Research found that chimps can even remember seeing sequences of numbers—even after only seeing them for a few seconds!
Some chimps even recognize the faces of zookeepers and other humans after years of separation! Who says elephants are the only animals that can’t forget?
2. Chimps Forge Strong Social Bonds
Some animals (like schools of fish that live in massive groups) could care less about one another. This is not the case for chimps. Not only can they live in troops of 25 to 80, but they have strong bonds.
Chimps have been observed:
- Grieving the deaths of beloved family members
- Adopting orphaned babies and caring for others’ young
- Sharing food and other treasures
- Engaging in group activities (like drumming or threatening other troops)
There’s even some cultural diversity among chimps! These differences pertain to how chimpanzees “date,” dance in the rain, build nests, and pass down traditions.
1. Chimps Are Wonderful Mothers
Anybody who’s ever seen a mother chimp spend time with her baby knows how devoted these parents are. Chimp mommies are some of the best animal parents around!
They cradle newborns and are seldom separated during the first six months of the baby’s life. When a chimp is about eight or nine years old, it may venture away from the troop to find its new home. Yet, they remain close to their mothers, sometimes even coming back for surprise visits! This is unlike other species (like pandas and harp seals), some of the animal kingdom’s worst mothers!