Rambam Forum

Can Chimpanzee Biology Highlight Human Origin and Evolution?

Itai Roffman and Eviatar Nevo


The closest living relatives of humans are their chimpanzee/bonobo (Pan) sister species, members of the same subfamily “Homininae”. This classification is supported by over 50 years of research in the fields of chimpanzee cultural diversity, language competency, genomics, anatomy, high cognition, psy-chology, society, self-consciousness and relation to others, tool use/production, as well as Homo level emotions, symbolic competency, memory recollection, complex multifaceted problem-solving capabili-ties, and interspecies communication. Language competence and symbolism can be continuously bridged from chimpanzee to man. Emotions, intercommunity aggression, body language, gestures, fa-cial expressions, and vocalization of intonations seem to parallel between the sister taxa Homo and Pan. The shared suite of traits between Pan and Homo genus demonstrated in this article integrates old and new information on human–chimpanzee evolution, bilateral informational and cross-cultural exchange, promoting the urgent need for Pan cultures in the wild to be protected, as they are part of the cultural heritage of mankind. Also, we suggest that bonobos, Pan paniscus, based on shared traits with Austra-lopithecus, need to be included in Australopithecine‟s subgenus, and may even represent living-fossil Australopithecines. Unfolding bonobo and chimpanzee biology highlights our common genetic and cul-tural evolutionary origins.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2010;1(1):e0009