human chimpanzee comparison

Human Chimpanzee Comparison


                Chimpanzees are said to be the closest relative of humans in the animal kingdom. Their physical attributes alone are enough for one to see their primitive relationship with Homo sapiens. Chimpanzees can stand erect, and they are smart creatures. However, the similarities do not end there. Skin-deep, chimpanzees and humans are more alike than one might actually think. They have similar human emotions, happiness, and anger. Humans and chimpanzees are also similar in terms of behavior. Like humans, chimpanzees are also social creatures. They interact with their kind most of the time and communicate using body language and sound, which humans may recognize as grunts, squeals, or howls. This paper aims to describe the physical and internal similarities between humans and chimpanzees.

Physical Similarities and Differences

                Recent study has shown that chimpanzees or chimpanzees share more than 90% of our DNA (Britten 70). Some have even argued that the difference between the human and chimpanzee DNA is less than 1%, and it shows. Hence, the fact that more than 90% of the chimpanzee’s and human’s DNAs are the same is a testament that shows striking similarities between the two species. The chimpanzees’ physical appearance looks almost like a human being, especially when they are standing erect on their feet. Apart from humans, monkeys and apes are the only animals with hands, although they naturally walk in all fours. Chimpanzees are also mammals. They are warm blooded, have mammary glands, and have hair covering their body. Chimpanzees are covered with black hair, except in some areas such as the palms of the hand and soles of the feet, like any normal human. However, while the color of the hair among humans varies according to genes and race, the chimpanzees’ skin varies from pinkish to black (“Similarities”).

Intelligence and Cultural Behavior

                According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, culture is defined as the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education. Culture is the integrated pattern of knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations (culture Meriam-Webster On-Line Dictionary). Chimpanzees have been observed to display that they have culture as well. By learning how to use tools, chimpanzees have acquired a culture of their own. It is considered a culture if only a group of chimpanzees have acquired a way of using a tool that is not observed in other groups


A recent study shows a group of chimpanzees displaying cultural behavior. During the study, two chimpanzees, named as Ericka and Georgia, were each taught a different way of solving a puzzle to get food while they were separated from their groups. When they were reunited with their respective groups, the members gathered around them and eventually learned to solve the puzzle. A couple of months later, the two groups of chimpanzees were still using their own technique in solving the puzzle. Hence, this research proves what has already been observed in the wild for a long time: that great apes are capable of exercising culture. The unique behavior of chimpanzees and even monkeys has been documented all around the world which was not observed in similar species in a different region. For instance, chimpanzees in West Africa use rocks to open food that are inside hard shells, while similar species in East Africa have not been seen doing the same thing  (Briggs).


                Chimpanzees also live in social groups, the counterpart of families in the case of human. However, unlike families, the members of a chimpanzee social group are related by blood.  The group is headed by an alpha-male, the strongest among the males. He takes the role of the father, protecting the family from all kinds of danger, such as invading groups that raid the family for females or food. Chimpanzee mothers show great devotion to their babies, which is similar to the way human mothers shower their children with affection. Chimpanzee mothers form strong bonds with their young even after they have grown to adolescence. The most similar trait in relationship that chimpanzees have to humans is perhaps their ability to remember deeds that they did to others and deeds that were done to them. Chimpanzees remember if a chimpanzee was given food before by another chimp, that chimpanzee would most likely do the same to the other chimp in the future. Thus, if it was denied food, or if food was stolen from it, it will also remember that and wait its chance to get back on the culprit. From this, it could be inferred that chimpanzees have a concept of revenge and reward (de Waal 201).

                Though chimpanzees are portrayed in media as gentle, likable characters, they also have some dark traits that they share with their closest relative. Sometimes a band of bachelor chimpanzees would do a raid on a rival group, kill opposing males, force the female chimpanzees to have sex with them, and even cannibalize the infants of the other group. Chimpanzees cherish meat, and they celebrate wildly if they do manage to get their hands on the prized commodity (Goodall 223).


                Chimpanzees communicate just like humans. Though they lack words, they use a variety of calls and body language. Calls may mean different things, but most of them are food calls to tell the others that they have made a kill and warning calls to alert group members of danger.  Sometimes, they make aggressive sounds when they feel there is a need for it or when conflict is inevitable. Chimpanzees are also capable of laughter, which is also part of communication to show that an individual is happy. Neutral calls, on the other hand, are taught to be used just to keep in touch with other members, probably to let the others know their location (“Similarities”).

                It has been proven that chimpanzees are capable of learning American Sign Language (ASL) which is a very humanlike trait. A chimpanzee named Washoe, along with four other chimps, was taught ASL by Gardener and Gardner. Washoe was able to learn 132 signs (Jacobs). Other scientists soon followed.  E. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh conducted an experiment that taught two chimpanzees to use lexigrams to indicate what is required for them to get their reward. The two chimps had to communicate in order for them to succeed in the task. When the keyboard was not used in the experiment, their efficiency dropped from 97% to just 10% (Savage-Rumbaugh).

Works Cited

Briggs, Helen. “Chimpanzee Culture ‘confirmed’”  22 August 2005. 3 September 2008

Britten, Roy J. “Divergence Between Samples of Chimpanzee and Human DNA Sequences is 5%, Counting

              Indels.” Proceedings of the National Academy of  Science 99.21 (2002): 13633-16335. 3 September

2008 <>

Jacobs, James. “A Comparison of Some Similar Chimpanzee and Human Behaviors.” 4 July 2000.

3 September 2008 <>

Savage-Rumbaugh, E. Sue. Ape Language From Conditioned Response to Symbol. New York: Columbia

University Press, 1986.

“Similarities Between Chimpanzees and Human Beings.” The Jane Goodall Institute. 3 September 2008.


“culture.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. Merriam-Webster Online. 8 September 2008

de Waal, Frans. Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes. JHU Press. 2007

Goodall, Jane, The Chimpanzees of Gombe, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge,

                MA   (1986),p. 233


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