Chimpanzee Social Structure

Chimpanzee Social Structure

Chimpanzees have a social organization which is one of the most complex among animals. They are social creatures, whose pass their life in the company of their peers. This behavior could seem logic since they are the closest relatives of humans, which are also extremely social.

Characteristics of the Chimpanzee Society

All individuals of both species, the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and the bonobo (Pan paniscus), are born within a particular social group, which corresponds to a community. In other words, chimpanzees live in large communities.

The common chimpanzee communities always have an alpha male that leads the troop, and there are other members of any gender.

The number of individuals in a community varies from region to region, but in general, they may range from 100 to 150. For example, in the Gombe National Park, Africa, each group has between 40 and 60 male and female members of all ages.

It could seem that the coexistence is difficult with so many chimpanzees, but the communities split into smaller groups formed by closely related chimpanzees, that is, families. They usually have between 3 to 15 members that can be any combination of males and females and their offspring. Sometimes, there are single individuals.

Chimpanzee Social Behavior

Family of Bonobo apes

Social structure of chimpanzees

This system based on the division of the troop into subgroups is called fission-fusion, which means that these subgroups are permanent or temporary and can completely disappear after a time, or their members can join other members of the community only to perform some activities such as searching food, travel or rest. In particular cases, all males in a community meet during some events, such as when one of the females is available for mating.

Not all chimpanzees have the same importance within their troop. It has a linear hierarchical structure where each member has a rank. An alpha male leads the community, but there are other males too, which are more or less important, but they are above the females, which they dominate. However, some bonobo females may have a higher social status than males. In some cases, single adolescent females without offspring, get “permission” to go out and enter other communities (not subgroups). Males sometimes form coalitions to subdue other individuals and even challenge an alpha male.

The alpha male must be between 20 and 26 years old, robust, healthy and show ability to defend the members of his community.

The alpha male, although more important, has many responsibilities. It must be a chimpanzee between 20 and 26 years old, healthy, robust and show the ability to fight, form coalitions and so on. Its primary tasks are to monitor the territory of the troop, attack the chimpanzees of other communities, form coalitions with other males, protect their subordinates and, in short, maintain the order. It’s not easy being an alpha male.

Chimp community.

Group of chimpanzees.

Living in communities offers these primates many benefits that help them survive in an environment surrounded by threats and predators. Together, they cooperate to hunt or get food, as well as defend the territory against an intruder. Some common chimpanzee communities have several males as leaders.

Social differences between species

Although both are very similar, Pan paniscus and Pan troglodytes have some anatomical and social behavior differences. In bonobos society, females often take the lead and establish very close bonds between them, especially with their offspring. Pan Paniscus uses social relations and grooming as a means to resolve conflicts, as a greeting and to strengthen their ties. In contrast, among common chimpanzees, males always have the power, and it is very rare that they are closely related to females. They tend to be aggressive and react yelling or with physical violence to resolve conflicts, while bonobos coexist more peacefully.




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