Many of us were raised with the belief that our closest genetic relatives are chimpanzees. However, we now know that we share approximately 98.7% of our DNA with chimps and bonobos. Both species are more closely related to humans than gorillas or orangutans, and we can gain many insights into human evolution by studying the abilities and behaviors of these animals.
So, what are the key differences between chimps and bonobos? These species not only differ in appearance, but also in their social structure, behavior, and emotions.
Bonobos are graceful apes. Their long legs, narrow shoulders, and small head add up to a slender build. This contrasts with the strong and sturdy chimpanzee. While chimps age into a darker face, bonobos are born with a darker face and pink lips.
One of the biggest differences between the evolutionary relatives is that in bonobo society females are in charge. This is possible because female alliances work to prevent any male aggression, making up for size with numbers. The females ensure peace within their community and between their neighbors, contrasting with the often hostile interactions between chimp groups. Male chimps live in a society ruled by competition exhibited through sexual aggression and conflict that is sometimes deadly. Bloodshed is a trait shared by chimp and human society, but rarely seen with bonobos.
Peace is almost universal across bonobo communities. They have never been known to kill their own kind, and they have evolved to avoid conflict. In response to conflict, bonobos release a stress hormone that encourages social bonding for reassurance.
The chimpanzees and Bonobos have many interesting differences that you will encounter during your Uganda safaris.