chimpanzee

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Men who think that size really matters should probably not think too hard about the Y chromosome. This bundle of genes is the ultimate determinant of manliness, and it happens to be a degenerate runt.  Over a few hundred million years, it has shrunk considerably, jettisoning around 97% of its original genes. Where it was…

If you tickle a young chimp, gorilla or orang-utan, it will hoot, holler and pant in a way that would strongly remind you of human laughter. The sounds are very different – chimp laughter, for example, is breathier than ours, faster and bereft of vowel sounds (“ha” or “hee”). Listen to a recording and you…

Male chimps trade meat for sex

Many men think of little else besides sex and meat, but male chimpanzees will sometimes exchange one for the other. Chimps are mostly vegetarian but they will occasionally supplement their diet by hunting other animals, especially monkeys. Males do most of the hunting, but they don’t eat their spoils alone – often, they will share…

For humans, our culture is a massive part of our identity, from the way we dress, speak and cook, to the social norms that govern how we interact with our peers. Our culture stems from our ability to pick up new behaviours through imitation, and we are so innately good at this that we often…

Be it in sports or comedy, they say that timing is everything. In evolution, it’s no different. Many of the innovations that have separated us from other apes may have arisen not through creating new genetic material, but by subtly shifting how the existing lot is used. Take our brains, for example. In the brains…

In 1997, Swedish inspectors found several stockpiles of missiles hidden in a local zoo. Apparently, the arsenal had been gathered together for the express purpose of being used against civilians. And who was the mastermind behind this collection? A 19-year-old chimpanzee called Santino. Santino was born in a German zoo in 1978 and transferred to…

In the Goualougo Triangle of the Republic of Congo, a chimpanzee is hungry for termites. Its prey lives within fortress-like nests, but the chimp knows how to infiltrate these. It plucks the stem from a nearby arrowroot plant and clips any leaves away with its teeth, leaving behind a trimmed, flexible stick that it uses…

This is the sixth of eight posts on evolutionary research to celebrate Darwin’s bicentennial. Physically, we are incredibly different from our ape cousins but genetically, it’s a different story. We famously share more than 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees, our closest living relatives. Our proteins are virtually identical and our chromosomes have more or…