Primate of the Week: Chimpanzees

Pan troglodytes


  • Suborder: Haplorrhini
  • Infraorder: Simiiformes
  • Superfamily: Hominoidea
  • Family: Hominidae
  • Genus: Pan
  • Species: troglodytes
    • Chimps can be split into four separate subspecies
      • t. verus
        • Western chimpanzee
      • t. troglodytes
        • Central African Chimpanzee
      • t. schweinfurthii
        • East African Chimpanzee
      • t. vellerosus
        • Nigeria Chimpanzee

Chimpanzees are located in the tropical forests of central Africa (Goodall, 1986). Pan troglodytes verus is located within Gambia to the Niger river. Pan troglodytes troglodytes are located from the Niger river to Congo. Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii are located from northwestern are of Zaire into west Uganda and Tanzania. Pan troglodytes vellerosus is located in Nigeria (Nowak, 1999)

Typically chimps live in tropical rain forests but can be found in a vast diversity of habitats such as savanna or grassland habitats (Goodall, 1985; Jones et al. 1996; Nowak, 1999).

Chimpanzee diet is mainly of fruit but also includes leaves, leaf buds and seeds, blossoms, stems, pith, bark and resin (Goodall, 1986). They will also supplement their diet with insects, birds, eggs, honey, and mammals including other primates (Goodall, 1986; Isabirye-Basuta, 1989) Chimps mostly eat red colobus monkeys but will also eat red tail monkeys, and yellow baboons (Boesch et al. 2002). An important characteristic of chimps is their ability to use tools. Tools have been used throughout feeding and foraging. Chimps have used sticks, rocks, grass and leaves has modified tools to collect honey, termites, ants, nuts and water (Boesch & Boesch, 1993). An example of tool use I ant fishing. Chimpanzees will take long thin sticks and strip them of their leaves and use this to dip in to the ant’s nest. Interestingly this skill must be learned and infants/juveniles learn from their mothers also females are better at this technique than males and some chimpanzees never fall master this ability.

Chimpanzees live in groups of multi female and male groups consisting of up to one hundred individuals however they participate in fission fusion. Fission fusion involves small temporary subgroups that will split off from the group. These groups are fluid and will change members, it will also last different lengths of time before rejoining the large community (Goodall, 1986; Chapman et al. 1993; Boesch, 1996). Group size generally depends on the amount of food available, if there is more food the larger the group (Mitani et al. 2002). Group size will also increase when estrous females are present (Matsumoto- Oda et al. 1998; Mitani et al. 2002).

Males are dominant over females and have linear dominance hierarchy (Nishida et al. 2003).

Males remain in their natal group creating strong kinship bonds between males while females generally emigrate at adolescence between nine to fourteen years old (Goldberg & Wranghum, 1997; Nishida et al. 2003). Lactating females spend most of their time with their offspring however they will sometimes be seen with other lactating females (Pepper et al. 1999). However, females during estrous become highly social and are more likely to be in bisexual parties (Peppers et al. 1999).

Hunting also occurs within chimps. It likely evolves d in order to provide a protein source for the fruit based diet (frugivorous) of chimps. Hunting is a cooperation of males and meat is also used a social currency that allow for alliance between adult males. During hunting members of the hunting party split with some on the ground and on the trees while other vocalize/observe while they hunting party catches the prey (Mitani & Watts, 2001).

Males reach adolescence from 9 to 15 years of age and reach reproduction age at approximant 16 years of age. Females exhibit their first estrous at approximately 10 years of age, following their first estrous menarche occurs a few months later and they will then cycle for about 36 days (Goodall, 1986). Matings occur throughout the birth season however their appears to be a seasonality of the number of estrous female within a group (Wallis, 1995). Chimpanzee females tend to mate with multiple males during the ten period of their swelling time (Goodall, 1996). Some reproductive strategies used by dominant males in order to restrict other males include consortship mating and extra group mating (Goodall, 1986; Gagneux et al. 1999).

Chimpanzee females are critical for the survival of their offspring. Both infants and juveniles benefit with a very close relationship with their mother in order to both survive and also for social learning (Goodall, 1986).

Work Cited/Read more

Boesch C. 1996. Social grouping in Taï chimpanzees. In: McGrew WC, Marchant LF, Nishida T, editors. Great ape societies. Cambridge, England: Cambridge Univ Pr; p 101-13.

Boesch C, Boesch H. 1993. Diversity of tool use and tool-making in wild chimpanzees. In: Berthelet A, Chavaillon J, editors. The use of tools by human and non-human primates. Oxford, England: Oxford Univ Pr; p 158-87.

Boesch C, Boesch-Achermann H. 2000. The chimpanzees of the Taï Forest: behavioral ecology and evolution. Oxford, England: Oxford Univ Pr. 316 p.

Boesch C, Uehara S, Ihobe H. 2002. Variations in chimpanzee-red colobus interactions. In: Boesch C, Hohmann G, Marchant LF, editors. Behavioral diversity in chimpanzees and bonobos. Cambridge, England: Cambridge Univ Pr; p 221-30.

Chapman CA, White FJ, Wrangham RW. 1993. Defining subgroup size in fission-fusion societies. Folia Prim 61: 31-34.

Goodall J. 1986. The chimpanzees of Gombe. Cambridge (MS): Belknap Pr. 673 p.

Gagneux P, Boesch C, Woodruff DS. 1999. Female reproductive strategies, paternity and community structure in wild West African chimpanzees. Anim Beh 57: 19-32.

Goldberg TL, Wrangham RW. 1997. Genetic correlates of social behavior in wild chimpanzees: evidence from mitochondrial DNA. Anim Beh 54: 559-70.

Goodall J. 2001. Problems faced by wild and captive chimpanzees: finding solutions. In: Beck BB, Stoinski TS, Hutchins M, Maple TL, Norton B, Rowan A, Stevens EF, Arluke A, editors. Great apes & humans: the ethics of coexistence. Washington DC: Smithsonian Inst Pr; p xii-xxiv.

Isabirye-Basuta G. 1989. Feeding ecology of chimpanzees in the Kibale Forest, Uganda. In: Heltne PG, Marquardt LA, editors. Understanding chimpanzees. Cambridge, (MS): Harvard Univ Pr; p 116-27.

Jones, C., C. Jones, J. Jones, Jr., D. Wilson. 1996. Pan troglodytes. Mammalian Species, 529: 1-9.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker’s Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Matsumoto-Oda A, Hosaka K, Huffman MA, Kawanaka K. 1998. Factors affecting party size in chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains. Int J Prim 19(6): 999-1011.

Mitani JC, Merriwether DA, Zhang C. 2000. Male affiliation, cooperation and kinship in wild chimpanzees. Anim Beh 59: 885-93.

Mitani JC, Watts DP. 2001. Why do chimpanzees hunt and share meat? Anim Beh 61: 915-24.

Mitani JC, Watts, DP, Lwanga, JS. 2002. Ecological and social correlates of chimpanzee party size and composition. In: Boesch C, Hohmann G, Marchant LF, editors. Behavioral diversity in chimpanzees and bonobos. Cambridge, England: Cambridge Univ Pr; p 102-11.

Nishida T. 1989. Research at Mahale. In: Heltne PG, Marquardt LA, editors. Understanding chimpanzees. Cambridge, (MS): Harvard Univ Pr; p 66-89.

Nishida T, Corp N, Hamai M, Hasegawa T, Hiraiwa-Hasegawa M, Hosaka K, Hunt KD, Itoh N, Kawanaka K, Matsumoto-Oda A, et al. 2003. Demography, female life history and reproductive profiles among the chimpanzees of Mahale. Am J Prim 59(3): 99-121.

Nishida T, Wrangham RW, Jones JH, Marshall A, Wakibara J. 2001. Do chimpanzees survive the 21st century? In: The apes: challenges for the 21st century. Conference proceedings; 2000 May 10-13; Brookfield, IL. Chicago: Chicago Zoo Soc; p 43-51.

Pepper JW, Mitani JC, Watts DP. 1999. General gregariousness and specific social preferences among wild chimpanzees. Int J Prim 20(5): 613-32.

Wallis J. 1995. Seasonal influence on reproduction in chimpanzees of Gombe National Park. Int J Prim 16(3): 435-51.

Wallis J. 2002. Seasonal aspects of reproduction and sexual behavior in two chimpanzee populations: a comparison of Gombe (Tanzania) and Budongo (Uganda). In: Boesch C, Hohmann G, Marchant LF, editors. Behavioural diversity in chimpanzees and bonobos. Cambridge (England): Cambridge Univ Pr. p 181-91.


One thought on “Primate of the Week: Chimpanzees

  1. Pingback: Primate News of the Week | Primatoloigistinthemaking

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