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chimpanzee, an ape, genus Pan, of the equatorial forests of central and W Africa. Smaller populations are also found in the savannas of the same regions. The common chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, lives N of the Congo River. Full-grown animals of this species are up to 5 ft (1.5 m) tall and weigh about 150 lb (68 kg); they have an arm spread of up to 9 ft (2.7 m) and are much stronger than humans. They are covered with long, black hair over most of the body and have naked faces ranging in color from nearly white to nearly black. The pygmy chimpanzee, P. paniscus, now usually called the bonobo, lives south of the Congo. It is a bit smaller and more slenderly built, with a black face.

Chimpanzees spend much time on the ground, where they walk on all fours, using the soles of the feet and the knuckles of the hands; they can also stand on two legs and sometimes walk this way for short distances. They climb trees in pursuit of food and for nesting and can swing by their hands from branch to branch. Their diet consists largely of fruit and other plant matter, but they also hunt and eat small animals, including monkeys. They use and even make primitive tools; for example, they collect termites using twigs and crack nuts using stones. Many primatologists now attribute culture to chimpanzees, noting learned variations in such skills and habits among different groups.

Chimpanzees move about the forest in bands of varying composition, usually numbering six to ten individuals. The males of a group engage in dominance contests involving much screaming and stamping. Family groups consist of mothers and offspring; females mate with many males during their fertile periods. A single infant is born every three to eight years; young chimpanzees ride about on their mothers' backs. Under ideal circumstances chimpanzees may live 50 years.

Although incapable of speech beyond their own simple vocalizations, captive chimpanzees have been taught to communicate in a language using visual rather than verbal symbols. Because of their close evolutionary relationship to humans they are often used for medical and behavioral experimentation, but the degree to which chimpanzees and humans are genetically close is a subject of dispute, with estimates of the amount of DNA the species share ranging from 94.6% to 99.4%. Chimpanzees, especially bonobos, are considered endangered species because of hunting and loss of habitat.

Chimpanzees are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Primates, family Hominidae.


See G. H. Bourne, The Chimpanzee (6 vol., 1973); J. Goodall, In the Shadow of Man (1967) and The Chimpanzees of Gombe (1986); F. de Waal, Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape (1998).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a large anthropoid ape of the genus Pan of the family Pongidae. The chimpanzee measures 150–165 cm in height and weighs 45–80 kg; the females are somewhat smaller than the males. The arms are longer than the legs. The fingers are long, and a relatively short thumb is in opposition to the rest of the fingers. The ears are large, the upper lip is high, and the nose protrudes little. Supraorbital and occipital ridges are developed on the skull. The skin on the face, hands, and feet is wrinkled. The hair is black and coarse. The skin is light-colored. There are two species: the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and the dwarf chimpanzee (P. paniscus). Both species have a set of 48 chromosomes. Some zoologists consider them to be subspecies of a single species.

Chimpanzees are distributed in equatorial Africa. Semiterrestrial animals, they inhabit tropical rain and mountain forests, up to elevations of 3,000 m. Each night they build a new nest in a tree. They live in groups of five to 25 individuals under a hierarchical system. They feed on fruits, leaves, shoots, various insects, bird eggs, nestlings, and, sometimes, small mammals. Gestation lasts about 225 days. Sexual maturity is reached at the age of six to ten years. Life expectancy is 50–60 years.

Chimpanzees are curious by nature and are capable of learning through imitation. They are distinguished by the development of social instincts. They are characterized by a considerable variety of facial expressions and gesticulations, and they use about 30 different sounds to communicate. Many scientists have noted that chimpanzees have the capability of goal-oriented activity and possibly of rudimentary abstract thought. According to many biochemical features, they are closer to man than the other anthropoid apes and are therefore used in medicobiological and psychophysiological experiments. Their numbers are few. The dwarf chimpanzee is listed as an endangered species in the Red Data Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.


Van Lawick-Goodall, J. V teni cheloveka. Moscow, 1974. (Translated from English.)
King, M.-C, and A. C. Wilson. “Evolution at Two Levels in Humans and Chimpanzees.” Science, 1975, vol. 188, no. 4184, pp. 107–116.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(vertebrate zoology)
Either of two species of Primates of the genus Pan indigenous to central-west Africa.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a gregarious and intelligent anthropoid ape, Pan troglodytes, inhabiting forests in central W Africa
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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