Thursday, February 6, 2014


Pan paniscus
Human readers, meet one of your closest biological relatives-- the Bonobo! Bonobos and Chimpanzees share more than 98% of their DNA with humans. In fact-- we are so closely related to them that there are some who argue that Bonobos and Chimpanzees should belong to the Homo genus, rather than Pan.

Bonobos are smaller than Chimpanzees, but otherwise look very similar. They are even sometimes referred to as Pygmy Chimpanzees, and weren't considered separate species until 1929. Physically, Bonobos are lean and have dark black hair. Males are larger than the females-- sometimes weighing twice as much!

The wild range of the Bonobo is quite small-- they live only in the Democratic Republic of Congo which is one of the reasons why they are so Endangered. Not only is their range small, but they live in an area of civil unrest, where government protections for the species are nearly impossible to uphold, and where there are few regulations concerning habitat protection. The wild population has been on the decline for decades, and it will have difficulty rebounding because of the long reproductive cycle of the Primate. Unlike many mammals that reproduce yearly, a female Bonobo will produce offspring only once every 4-5 years.

Bonobo social groups are actually led by the females, and mother-child bonds are very important to the group. In fact, they are the only primate groups to be female-led. A male's standing is influenced by who his mother is. These communities can number over 100 members, but they tend to break up into smaller sections while foraging. Bonobos primarily eat fruit, but they will also consume leaves, insects, and small vertebrates. They have been known to eat other, smaller Primates as well.

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : Africa
Size : Length up to 3ft (.9m), Weight up to 130lbs (65kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Primates
Family : Hominidae -- Genus : Pan -- Species : P. paniscus
Image : USAID, Pierre Fidenci

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