Our Nearest Relatives: Bonobos and Chimpanzees

What we share with our nearest surviving relatives, the male-centered chimpanzee and the female-centered, erotic, and peaceable bonobo. How that understanding helps shape who we are vs. who we think we are.

  • Bonobos and Chimpanzees

    About five and a half million years ago the human line of descent split from the ancestor we share with chimps and the lesser known bonobos. 98.7% of our DNA is exactly the same as theirs, including some very basic traits often attributed only to humans. Are we more like the aggressive chimp or the peaceful bonobo?

  • Human Traits in Our Nearest Relatives

    All animals adapt, develop and diversify over time to ensure their species’ survival, so it’s not surprising that we share characteristics with our nearest relatives. Some of these are less well known, and quite surprising.

She Has Her Mother’s Laugh

The Powers, Perversions and Potential of Heredity

Carl Zimmer

Our understanding of heredity has come a long way and holds much promise, but we’ll need wise judgement to manage the emerging science of genetic engineering.

Neanderthal Man

In Search of Lost Genomes

by Svante Pääbo
Reviewed by George Kasabov

Neanderthals, our nearest cousin species, finally died out soon after 40,000 years ago. How are we related to them?

The Age of Empathy and The Bonobo and the Atheist

Frans de Waal

Both reciprocity and empathy – the two pillars upon which morality is built – are found in bonobos, apes and other social animals. But only humans are able to “abstract” the value and extend the behavioral constraints of “one-on-one” morality to the larger society, including strangers.

The Gap

The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals

Thomas Suddendorf

A leading research psychologist concludes that our abilities surpass those of animals because our minds evolved two overarching qualities.

Before the Dawn

Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors
Nicholas Wade

New York Times science writer explores humanity’s origins as revealed by the latest genetic science.

Further Reading

External Stories and Videos

Active self-treatment of a facial wound with a biologically active plant by a male Sumatran orangutan

Although self-medication in non-human animals is often difficult to document systematically due to the difficulty of predicting its occurrence, there is widespread evidence of such behaviors.