What are the differences between chimpanzees and bonobos?

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Question from Terry Hamilton

Chimpanzees and bonobos are the closest living relatives to humans, sharing close to 99 per cent of our genome, and closer to 100 per cent of each other’s. However, although they look very similar, there are many key differences. Firstly, bonobos live exclusively in the Democratic Republic of Congo, while chimps can be found across western and central Africa. Bonobos are also smaller and slimmer compared to chimps, have pink lips as opposed to brown, and shorter head hair. 

A chimp’s facial colouring will also change with age, whereas a bonobo’s will remain black. Their social behaviour also differs greatly, as groups of chimps are led by an alpha male who will use aggression to maintain order, while nonviolent bonobos are dominated by females who use sex to keep the peace. Bonobos also have a higher-pitched voice compared to chimps, who prefer to communicate with deeper hoots, screams and grunts.

Answered by Jo Stass for Brain Dump in How It Works issue 99.

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