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Encyclopedia > Pan (biology)

Common Chimpanzee
in Cameroon's South Province
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Hominidae
Genus: Pan
Oken, 1816

Pan troglodytes
Pan paniscus

Chimpanzees, also called chimps, are 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.

Chimpanzee differences

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.

Taxonomic relationships

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 98 to 99.4 percent of their DNA in common with humans, which prompted biologist Jared Diamond to dub humans "the third chimpanzee." 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. This is controversial both because many find it discomforting to blur the line between what is "human" and what is "animal" and because it would call into question the morality of using chimpanzees in animal testing.

See the history of hominoid taxonomy for more about the history of the classification of chimpanzees.

See also



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