Chimpanzees are one of our closest extant, living, relatives. Let us
look closer at their classification and evolutionary history to
understand how this has happened. Ordering animals into a particular
classification is the way by which scientists organize and
understand how animals are related to one another.
Species- Pan troglodytes
Species- Homo sapiens
Chimpanzees are in the same kingdom, phylum, class, order, and
family. This meaning that they are both animals who possess
backbones, are endothermic (can maintain their own body
temperature) and have mammary glands as well as hair or fur.
They are both primates which includes all primate species, and
are in the same family which includes all of the great apes
including chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans. Humans
and chimpanzees only differ in their genus and species, which
simply means that humans and chimpanzees are not exactly
identical in all characteristics, but that they are exceedingly
similar in many ways. But exactly how did humans and chimpanzees
become so closely related?
Most classification over the years
has been done based on homologous, or shared similar
traits, between animals. It makes it easier for
scientists to determine what we humans have in
common with other species, but this is not the only
way to clearly see the close relatedness of humans
share a common ancestor, a relative who lived before them from
which the primate including chimps and humans evolved. The
Hominoid common ancestor existed somewhere between 8 and 5
million years ago, just think about how long ago that was!
Evolution is the process by which our genetic material, the part
of biology that makes people unique, changes through time.
Humans and chimps diverged from one another roughly around 6
million years ago.
There is evidence in the form of fossils and genetic
composition, which supports the theory that, other than the
bonobo, the chimpanzee are our closest living relative.
Fossil evidence has come from all over the world to support the
evolution of humans from other hominid species, but there has
been a particular hot spot in Africa. This is very interesting
since many primate species including the chimpanzees and
gorillas are found in Africa. Olduvai gorge, Laetoli, and the
Great Rift Valley were all very famous paleontological sites
where fossils have been found. Many fossils have appeared to be
half human and half chimpanzee, giving us another reason to
believe that we are very closely related to chimps. A
from which we all seem to stem supports the notion that we are
very closely related to chimpanzees.
to fossil evidence that links humans as having evolved from the
same lineage that chimpanzee come from, there is also DNA
evidence. DNA is found in our chromosome within the cells of our
body and it holds the genetic information that makes each one of
us unique. Scientists have been able to remove DNA from the
cells of humans and chimpanzees alike to determine that we share
98% of our genes. This means that there is only 2% genetic
material that makes you unique from a chimpanzee!
Message from CAC'ers
Africa we reflected upon where and from whom we as humans
originated. The feeling of staring into the eyes of a
chimpanzee, which evolved from the same ancestor that we have
evolved from, was remarkable. It was like staring into the eyes
of a person that has changed looks over a few years. You may
not always recognize the outward appearance of a haircut, color,
or body size but the eyes are never changing and always remain
constant over time. Standing in Africa, where we as the human
race evolved, while looking into the similar but never before
seen eyes of a closely related chimpanzees was amazing. It felt
like visiting our homeland and meeting the relatives that live
in this far off land that we have, in our lifetime, never before