troglodytes [pan' trog luh dI' tEz]
An adult male chimpanzee has a
head and body length of 30 to 36 inches and
weighs up to 200 pounds. Females are slightly
smaller, being 28 to 38 inches long and weighing
up to 180 pounds. Overall height ranges from 3 to
5.5 feet, and the arm spread is 50% greater than
Most of the body is covered
with long, coarse black or brown hair, but the
face, ears, fingers and toes are bare. As with
humans, baldness is quite common among mature
chimpanzees, except that females tend to
experience it worse than males.
Chimpanzees have hands that can
grip firmly, thanks to an opposable thumb.
Distribution and Habitat
Chimpanzees live in the
tropical rain forests of western and central
equatorial Africa. They are at home in the trees,
but often come down to the ground to search for
Chimpanzees live in groups
numbering from 15 to 140 individuals. The size of
a group will increase as chimpanzees gather at a
source of plentiful food, and will decrease as
that source depletes, and individuals move
between groups frequently. The only constant unit
of social life is a mother with her young. She
may have two or three of different ages with her
at any time because they stay with her for
Within a party, the males are
arranged in a social order, based primarily on
Chimpanzees are very
"touchy-feely," often kissing and/or
"shaking hands" when they meet. They
also communicate with each other using a wide
range of facial expressions and vocalizations.
There is no regular breeding
season, but females only mate during heat, which
lasts two to three weeks and occurs every four to
six weeks. During this time females are quite
promiscuous and will mate with any willing male.
A single baby -- twins are rare
-- is born after about 230 days. The quality of
baby care shown by female chimpanzees varies
considerably -- from overly attentive and
protective to neglectful. In general, however,
the standard of care and education for chimpanzee
young is among the highest in the animal kingdom.
In addition, chimpanzee babies are among the most
obedient children in the animal kingdom, although
juvenile delinquency is not unheard of.
An infant can sit up at about 5
months and stand with support at 6 months. It
will be totally dependent upon its mother until
reaching about 2 years of age, and will remain
with her until about 3 years old. Sexual maturity
is reached between 7 and 10 years of age.
Chimpanzees spend up to 7 hours
a day feeding, and will investigate virtually any
source likely to produce food. Crevices in logs
are searched for insects and nests are robbed of
eggs and chicks, but their usual food consists of
fruits, leaves and roots. Ripening fruit crops
are a special attraction to them and bands of
chimpanzees have been known to do considerable
damage to plantations before the ripened fruit
can be harvested.
While 90-95% of the chimp's
diet consists of plant matter and insects, it is
not at all unusual for an individual chimpanzee
to hunt down, kill and eat small monkeys, pigs,
or even antelope.
The chimpanzee is one of the
very few animals known to make and use tools in
the wild. Twigs and vines are stripped of leaves
and then used to "fish" for termites. A
stick may be used to enlarge the hole in an ant
hill. Leaves are chewed to make them more
absorbent so that they can be used to dip for
water in holes in trees. And, every night, each
chimp constructs a nest of vegetation in which to
sleep. What makes tool use among chimpanzees even
more remarkable is the fact that individual
chimpanzees have been seen showing other
individuals how to make and use implements, and
that the quality of tool-making within a family
group may actually improve over the course of a
Left: A chimpanzee
demonstrates concept formation by matching the
peg shape with the correct hole.
Right: In a classic
experiment a chimpanzee was faced with the
challenge of getting to a bunch of bananas
hanging from the ceiling. With little hesitation,
the chimp stacked the three wooden crates that
the observer had "conveniently left
behind," climbed to the top of the stack,
and got his "prize."
Chimpanzees have also been
observed using medicinal plants to treat
themselves and others for illness and injury.
Individual chimpanzees can
recognize themselves in a mirror -- as opposed to
seeing the reflection as another animal.
Chimpanzees avoid water at all
costs and are usually unable to swim.
genus & species Pan troglodytes
African Wildlife Federation www.awf.org/content/wildlife/detail/chimpanzee
Jane Goodall Institute www.janegoodall.org
San Diego Zoo animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/chimpanzee
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