Chimpanzee Evolution

Chimpanzee Evolution

All species have a common ancestor that lived millions of years ago and gave rise to the immense variety of living organisms that exist. From an evolutionary point of view, common chimpanzees and bonobos are the closest relatives of present-day Homo sapiens.

It is common to believe that humans evolved from monkeys or chimpanzees, but this is not true since they are entirely different species that took other evolutionary paths. At some point in history, the ancestors of humans and chimpanzees separated and evolved differently. However, they share a common ancestor.

Evolution of Primates

The first primates were proto-primates that lived about 65 million years ago in Africa, toward the end of the Cretaceous period. At that time the Earth was covered with dense vegetation, and the animals began to occupy new habitats. “Purgatorius,” was a genus of rat-like quadruped mammals, are considered one of the principal ancestors of primates.

Common chimpanzees and bonobos are the closest relatives of present-day Homo sapiens.

The prosimians lived several million years later. At present, prosimians still exist in the world and are the lemurs, lorises, tarsiers and other members of the suborder Prosimii. 40 million years ago, the first monkeys emerged, primates with tail, which separated at some time in New World and Old World monkeys, the latter were the first to appear in the African continent. The monkeys of the New World came to America years later, through land bridges.

Members of the Hominoid order appeared in Africa about 25 to 30 million years ago. According to fossil evidence and genetic studies, hominoids separated from the Old World monkeys between the Oligocene and the Miocene, and during this last time hominids spread from the African continent to Europe.

It is possible that the earliest hominoids lived about 30 million years ago in North Africa, and are part of the genus Propliopithecus. They looked a lot like the current Gibbons, but time after the group diversified.

Chimpanzees arrive

The first hominoids to separate from the others were gibbons, which as such evolved about 18 million years ago. 11 million years ago the hominids (orangutans, gorillas, common chimpanzees and bonobos) were already thriving, but most of them became extinct, and only a few species remain. Orangutans split about 14 million years ago, gorillas about 7 million and members of the genera Homo and Pan about 3.5 million years ago, although this number may be smaller.

Research suggests that chimpanzees and human ancestors separated about 3.5-4 million years ago, so they “became” completely different species. Other sources indicate that this separation occurred between 5-8 million years ago.

Ancestors of chimpanzees.

Research suggests that chimpanzees and human ancestors separated about 3.5-8 million years ago.

But this does not end here. There are currently two species of chimpanzees: the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and the bonobo or pygmy chimpanzee (Pan paniscus). They live in West-Central Africa, but in different sections separated by the Congo River. This natural barrier prevents both species from crossbreeding.

Obviously, Pan paniscus and Pan troglodytes had a common ancestor, but both separated from each other about 1-2 million years ago, possibly because of the formation of the Congo river. During that time, they were adapting to the life of their habitat, so that particular characteristics of their body were modified and made the species they are today.

Chimpanzee fossils are very rare compared to those of other hominids, and most have appeared in Kenya.

Chimpanzees are not the ancestors of man; they are only close relatives.



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