Western chimpanzee

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Western chimpanzee
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Hominidae
Subfamily: Homininae
Tribe: Hominini
Genus: Pan
P. t. verus
Trinomial name
Pan troglodytes verus
Schwarz, 1934

The western chimpanzee, or West African chimpanzee,[1] (Pan troglodytes verus) is a Critically Endangered subspecies of the common chimpanzee. It inhabits western Africa, specifically Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, but has been extirpated in three countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, and Togo.[1]


The taxonomical genus Pan is derived from the Greek god of fields, groves, and wooded glens, Pan. The species name troglodytes is Greek for 'cave-dweller', and was coined by Johann Friedrich Blumenbach in his Handbuch der Naturgeschichte (Handbook of Natural History) published in 1779. Verus is Latin for 'true', and was given to this subspecies in 1934 by Ernst Schwarz, who originally named it as Pan satyrus verus.[2]

Taxonomy and genetics[edit]

The western chimpanzee (P. t. verus) is a subspecies of the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), along with the central chimpanzee (P. t. troglodytes), the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (P. t. ellioti), and the eastern chimpanzee (P. t. schweinfurthii).[3] The western chimpanzee last shared a common ancestor with P. t. ellioti between 0.4 and 0.6 million years ago (mya) and with P. t. troglodytes and P. t. schweinfurthii 0.38–0.55 mya.[4]

Western chimpanzees are the most genetically differentiated and homozygous subspecies of the common chimpanzee.[5]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The population of the western chimpanzee once spanned from southern Senegal all the way east to the Niger River.[1][6] Today, the largest populations remaining are found in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.[1][7]


A western chimpanzee using a wooden spear to hunt a Senegal bush-baby inside the branch, as his adolescent brother observes.

Diet and hunting[edit]

Male and female western chimpanzees differ in their prey. In Fongoli, Senegal, Senegal bushbabies account for 75% of females' prey and 47% of the males'. While males will prey more on monkeys, such as green monkeys (27%) and Guinea baboons (18%), only males were observed to hunt patas monkeys and only females were observed to hunt banded mongooses. Both will occasionally hunt bushbucks, preferring fawns, when given the chance. Adult, adolescent, and juvenile females are slightly more likely to hunt with tools than males of the same age group.[8]

Unique behaviors[edit]

Western chimpanzees have unique behaviors never observed in any of the other subspecies of the chimpanzee. In fact, their behaviour is so diverged from that of their fellow subspecies of chimpanzee that it has been proposed West African chimpanzees may be a distinct species in their own right.[9] Western chimpanzees engage in an unusual rock-throwing behaviour, throwing large rocks into hollow tree stumps or just against trees, presumably as some sort of primitive ritual or perhaps an early form of competitive sport.[10][unreliable source?] They make wooden spears to hunt other primates, use caves as homes, share plant foods with each other, and travel and forage during the night. They also submerge themselves in water and play in it to stay cool in the oppressive heat.[9][11][12]

Female west African chimpanzees are quite gregarious and often support one another in conflicts with males, resulting in a more gender-balanced hierarchy than that of the rigidly patriarchal east african chimpanzees.[citation needed] Female West African chimpanzees have been observed hunting[13][unreliable source?] and accompany males on territorial patrols, playing a more important role in social dynamics than other chimpanzee subspecies.[14] While it was traditionally accepted that only female chimpanzees immigrate and males remain in their natal troop for life, Western Chimpanzees uniquely exhibit female and male immigration between groups, suggesting males are less territorial and more willing to accept unfamiliar males.[15] Paternity tests indicate males frequently mate with females from several different communities, siring infants from them. There are even cases of solitary male western chimpanzees, while in any other population, a chimpanzee couldn't survive alone.[16] Male West African chimpanzees generally are respectful of females and do not forcibly confiscate food from them,[17] which may at least partly stem from the gregarious females forming alliances.[18] Among the Tai forest community, infants are often adopted by unrelated adults, with both sexes adopting infants in equal measure.[19] Female western chimpanzees also can rebuff the unwanted advances of males and select males to breed with on their own terms. This further is in line with the active and possibly co-dominant role female western chimpanzees play in their communities.[20]

Conservation status[edit]

The IUCN lists the western chimpanzee as Critically Endangered on the Red List of Threatened Species.[1] There are an estimated 21,300 to 55,600 individuals in the wild.[1] The primary threat to the western chimpanzee is habitat loss, although it is also killed for bushmeat.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Humle, T.; Boesch, C.; Campbell, G.; Junker, J.; Koops, K.; Kuehl, H.; Sop, T. (2016) [errata version of 2016 assessment]. "Pan troglodytes ssp. verus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T15935A102327574. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-2.RLTS.T15935A17989872.en. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  2. ^ Meder, A. (1995). "Men who named the African apes". Gorilla Journal. Germany (11).
  3. ^ Hof, J.; Sommer, V. (2010). Apes Like Us: Portraits of a Kinship. Mannheim: Edition Panorama. p. 114. ISBN 978-3-89823-435-1.
  4. ^ Gonder, M. K.; Locatelli, S.; Ghobrial, L.; Mitchell, M. W.; Kujawski, J. T.; Lankester, F. J.; Stewart, C.-B.; Tishkoff, S. A. (2011). "Evidence from Cameroon reveals differences in the genetic structure and histories of chimpanzee populations". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 108 (12): 4766–4771. doi:10.1073/pnas.1015422108. PMC 3064329. PMID 21368170.
  5. ^ de Manuel, M.; Kuhlwilm, M.; Frandsen, P.; et al. (2016). "Supplementary materials for chimpanzee genomic diversity reveals ancient admixture with bonobos". Science. 354 (6311): 1–129. doi:10.1126/science.aag2602. PMC 5546212. PMID 27789843.
  6. ^ "Western chimpanzee - population & distribution". Panda.org. World Wide Fund for Nature. 1 June 2007. Archived from the original on 25 April 2009. Retrieved 9 March 2009.
  7. ^ "Regional action plan for the conservation of western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) 2020–2030" (PDF). westernchimp.org/the-plan-overview. IUCN. Retrieved 3 November 2022.
  8. ^ Pruetz, J. D.; Bertolani, P.; Ontl, K. B.; Lindshield, S.; Shelley, M.; Wessling, E. G. (15 April 2015). "New evidence on the tool-assisted hunting exhibited by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in a savannah habitat at Fongoli, Sénégal". Royal Society Open Science. Royal Society Publishing. 2 (4): 140507. Bibcode:2015RSOS....240507P. doi:10.1098/rsos.140507. PMC 4448863. PMID 26064638.
  9. ^ a b Last, C. "Are western chimpanzees a new species of Pan?". Scientific American Blog Network. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  10. ^ "Scientists may have found evidence that chimps believe in god". The Independent. 4 March 2016. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  11. ^ "Almost human". National Geographic. 15 May 2012. Archived from the original on 6 March 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  12. ^ Fongoli chimps spearing. National Geographic.
  13. ^ "Female chimpanzees hunt with spears while lazy males wait to steal glory - sound familiar?". International Business Times UK. 16 April 2015. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
  14. ^ Lemoine, S.; Boesch, C.; Preis, A.; Samuni, L.; Crockford, C.; Wittig, R. M. (2020). "Group dominance increases territory size and reduces neighbour pressure in wild chimpanzees". Royal Society Open Science. 7 (5): 200577. Bibcode:2020RSOS....700577L. doi:10.1098/rsos.200577. PMC 7277268. PMID 32537232.
  15. ^ Sugiyama, Y.; Koman, J. (1979). "Social structure and dynamics of wild chimpanzees at Bossou, Guinea". Primates. 20 (3): 323–339. doi:10.1007/BF02373387. S2CID 9267686.
  16. ^ Sugiyama, Y. (1999). "Socioecological factors of male chimpanzee migration at Bossou, Guinea". Primates. 40 (1): 61–68. doi:10.1007/BF02557702. PMID 23179532. S2CID 24529322.
  17. ^ Larson, S. "Female chimps more likely than males to hunt with tools". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  18. ^ van Leeuwen, K. L. (28 October 2013). Bisexual bonding in West African chimpanzees: implications for the evolution of human sociality (Thesis). hdl:1874/285302.
  19. ^ Moskowitz, C. (26 January 2010). "Altruistic chimpanzees adopt orphans". livescience.com. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  20. ^ Stumpf, R. M.; Boesch, C. (October 2006). "The efficacy of female choice in chimpanzees of the Taï Forest, Côte d'Ivoire". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 60 (6): 749–765. doi:10.1007/s00265-006-0219-8. S2CID 986042.