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two chimpanzees - small, with longish dark hair and long thin arms and legs - sit on the ground together, looking at something on the ground in the forest - one chimpanzee is picking something up

What is a chimpanzee? Chimpanzees evolved in the Tertiary period, about five million years ago, when they split off from earlier primates in Africa.

When did chimpanzees evolve?

Chimpanzees are descended from earlier primates. They probably split off from the branch that became modern humans about five million years ago, but they’re still our closest living non-human relatives.

More about early primates
More about the Tertiary period

How are chimpanzees different from humans?

Chimpanzee smashing a beehive to get honey

Chimpanzee smashing a beehive to get honey

A chimpanzee has feet that are more like its hands, so it can swing around in the trees. They have a big toe that’s more like a thumb, and doesn’t help them walk or run like ours do. Chimpanzees have hair all over their bodies, to keep them warm and protect them from the sun, and they have pink skin under their hair. Humans evolved to lose that hair and have dark skin, so we could sweat to cool ourselves off.

What does a chimpanzee eat?

In other ways chimpanzees actually aren’t that different from early humans. They don’t have tails. Like early humans, they hunt and gather their food. They eat mainly figs, and also other kinds of fruit. But they also eat seeds, nuts, honey, leaves like lettuce, and termites (as you can see in the video). Chimpanzees also use sharpened wooden spears to hunt smaller animals – including other monkeys – for their meat.

More about the history of honey

Chimpanzees using tools to fish for termites and in other ways

Do chimpanzees use tools?

baby chimpanzee sitting in a tree holding a stick in one hand up over her shoulder

A young chimpanzee holds a stick as if it were a baby (thanks to National Geographic)

Chimpanzees use tools like twigs to get food out of holes, and stones to crack nutshells. They also make twigs into combs to help them get rid of lice and fleas. They play tag, and they carry sticks around as dolls.

Did you find out what you wanted to know about chimpanzees? Let us know in the comments!

Chimpanzees and honey
Chimpanzees and toys
Other mammals

Check out Jane Goodall’s 10 things you didn’t know about chimpanzees
And the National Geographic on chimpanzees

Bibliography and further reading about chimpanzees:

Chimpanzees and honey
Chimpanzees and toys

Other mammals
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