The chimpanzee is claimed to be one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom; commonly thought to be our genetic “cousin” in genealogy and behavior. Although we have many similarities, we also have differences that are numerous and complex. The Chimpanzee’s place in the animal kingdom and specific genealogical/anatomy functions and behavior resemble and contrast with that of a human in many obvious ways.
Starting with our similar and complex genealogy – it is said that chimpanzee’s and human’s DNA is 98.8% similar in chromosomal makeup (Nationalgeographic.com, 2020). It is thought that our genetic qualities are “almost identical” because our chromosomes share the same banding patterns. The banding patterns are the clusters of DNA inside every cell. When looking specifically at the X chromosome, chimps and humans have around 1,100 genetic codes that are similar. These directly affect different traits in each organism. For instance, both have the OPN1LW gene, which is the ability to see red colors (American Museum of Natural History, 2020).
There are other likenesses between chimps and humans that are behavioral in nature. Chimpanzee’s are known to communicate and gesture with body language just like humans. They can kiss, hold hands and even hug each other. Like humans, a chimp’s brain is structured in a way that produces rationalization, abstract thought processes and generalization (Muir, 2020). It’s said that chimps can recognize themselves in the mirror like we can, while most animals in the animal kingdom cannot.
In analyzing human beings and chimpanzees, it’s easy to conclude that both have an emotional compass. Humans feel things like attachment, jealousy, friendliness and boldness. It turns out, in research done over two years to chimps of all ages, that chimpanzees also have the capacity to exhibit these same emotions. A study was published in the American Journal of Primatology, and reported about in other sources, that researchers found chimpanzees share almost 60 percent of their personality traits with humans. Traits of openness, extraversion, and agreeableness were found to be prominent in the chimps that were studied (Tenofsky, 2020).
Humans and chimpanzees also share a propensity to use communication in non-verbal ways. A study published by Frontiers of Psychology states that between chimpanzees, bonobos and human infants there were similar gestures exhibited (Tenofsky, 2020). Patricia Greenfield, a professor of psychology, is quoted as saying “The similarity in the form and function of the gestures in a human infant, a baby chimpanzee, and a baby bonobo were remarkable,” (Tenofsky,2020) Analyzing these similarities tells us that chimpanzee’s and humans share many of the same unique traits.
Although primates like chimps can have a basic grasp on non-communication or even simple phrases, it does not mean that primates have the ability to understand language like humans do. Scientists state that humans' ability to innovate and understand language, along with our complex thought process, are a huge difference between us and primates like chimps. This difference between us is only one of many. (Wolchover, 2020)
It’s impossible to study the differences between humans and chimps without bringing up DNA. Although it is claimed that chimps and humans share approximately 98.8% of the same DNA, that two percent manifests itself in a big way. The 1.8 % that is left over actually rounds to about 35 million differences in our chromosomal structure. Even the DNA that we share are used in non-identical ways. (American Museum of Natural History, 2020). Chimpanzees can learn to do basic logistical operations, and some even understand the use of numbers.
Yet those behaviors don't even come close to the nuance and complexity of human behaviors in the same category. There’s no scientific evidence that chimps can understand aesthetics, spirituality, or poignancy like people can. (Sapolsky, 2020) The meager 1.8 % difference might seem almost irrelevant, but it encompasses the vast space of difference between wild animals and intelligent human beings. Humans create/live in domesticated environments. Humans are involved with scientific discovery and architecture. We have spirituality and complex emotional desires.
If we look at the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that controls memory, attention and awareness, there are twice bells in humans than there are for chimps. The brain cells in the cortex behave differently for both species. (Mora-Bermúdez, 2020). In critical analysis, it is apparent that chimps and humans share numerous traits. It’s also apparent that the traits and scientific differences we have illuminates our unique stance in the animal kingdom.