Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Pan paniscus Chimpanzee, often abbreviated to chimp, is the common name for two species in the genus Pan. The best known chimpanzee is Pan troglodytes, the Common Chimpanzee, living in West and Central Africa. Its cousin, the Bonobo or Pygmy Chimpanzee (Pan paniscus), is found in the forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The boundary between the two species is formed by the Congo River.
Anatomical differences between Common and Pygmy Chimpanzees are slight, but in sexual and social behaviour there are marked differences. Common Chimpanzees have an omnivorous diet, a troop hunting culture based on beta males led by a relatively weak alpha, and highly complex social relationships; Bonobos, on the other hand, have a mostly herbivorous diet and an egalitarian, matriarchal, sexually promiscuous culture.
The genus Pan is now considered to be part of the subfamily Homininae to which humans also belong. Biologists believe that the chimpanzees are the closest living evolutionary relatives to humans. Their common ancestor branched off from its latest common ancestor with us as recently as four to seven million years ago, and they have about 95 percent of their DNA in common with humans (the original estimate was 98.5 percent). It has even been proposed that chimpanzees and bonobos should be recatagorized in the genus Homo as well. The argument for this is that other species have been reclassified to belong to the same genus on the basis of less genetic similarity than that between humans and chimpanzees. However, it is very important where the differences in the genome appear. The study published by Clark and Nielsen (Cornell University) in the journal Science in December 2003 highlights differences related to one of humankindís defining qualities ó the ability to understand language and to communicate through speech, also in the genes for smell, in genes that enable humans and chimps to metabolize amino acids and in genes that may affect the abilities of the two species to digest protein. See the history of hominoid taxonomy for more about the history of the classification of chimpanzees.
- Pickrell, John. (September 24, 2002). Humans, Chimps Not as Closely Related as Thought?. National Geographic.
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