Select Page

The two species in the picture above are portrayed brotherly next to each other. In reality, in the wild, something like this would never occur. Though both live in the Congo the bonobos inhabit only an area south of the Congo River. The chimp exists of four or five subspecies that live spread over the west coast and central Africa. Apart from its smaller stature bonobos differ from chimps in a darker face, pink lips and behavior. Chimps have been studied extensively. Males dominate and an alpha-male is the undisputed leader. These seemingly peaceful animals, however, may fight each other and members of another group fiercely with sometimes brutal fatalities. Bonobos, on the other hand, according to primatologist Frans de Waal, are altruistic, compassioned, empathetic, and sensitive. Females have a higher status than males without a typical alpha-female. Because of the frequent sexual actions, the males have no idea if they are the father of a newborn. That’s why permanent monogamous sexual relations don’t exist. Add that to the lack of capability making and using tools as chimps do, the differences are substantial.

One million years old fossils of the bonobo have been found in Kenia, part of the Eastern Rift Valley, where modern humans developed. This and the gentle character of the species have some primatologists suggest that the bonobo might be more likely a distant human ancestor than the chimp.

The ongoing assumption among paleontologists is a common ancestor for all great apes and humans. The subsequent diversions from the human precursors emerged about 30 million years ago. They were apelike creatures from whom diverted the ancestors of the great apes and humans (humanoids) about 20 million years ago. The orangutan diverted 15 million years in South-Asia. Five million years later the gorilla diverted from the humanoids. The remaining types (one or more species) formed the common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans. The first humanlike creatures appeared somewhere between ten and four million B.C. Much later, about 2 million years B.C., when humans already had evolved to at least one real Homo species (Homo habilis), it is believed that bonobos diverted from chimps in the Congo. One group ended up on the south side of the then developing Congo River and were in fact separated from their peers to slowly showing signs of speciation. To believe that humans evolved from bonobos or possess typical bonobo genes just because they are compassioned, empathetic, and sensitive is a sweet sympathetic idea but not very logical.

By the way, if you look at the picture above, in what animal do you see the most humanlike look?