Bonobo: Profile and Information

Bonobo” by phōs graphé is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Bonobo, which is known historically as the Pygmy chimpanzee is species of great ape that is on the verge of extinction and also one of the two species that comprise the genus pan while the other species makes up the pan troglodytes commonly known as the common chimpanzee.

What distinguishes Bonobo from others is their pink lips, tail-tuft during adulthood, long legs, dark face, and parted long hair on their heads.

At an area measuring some 500,000 km2 of the Congo Basin, DR Congo in Central Africa is where you find the Bonobo.

They are omnivores that are found in both primary and secondary forests.

The Bonobo is the closest surviving relative to humans, along with the common chimpanzee.

The speciation of the Bonobo could be due to the fact that they are not good at swimming, and since the Congo River was formed some 1.5-2 million years back, the Bonobos which inhabit the south of the river were separated from ancestors of the common chimpanzee which inhabit the north of the river.

Scientific Classification

  • Scientific Name: Pan paniscus
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Primates
  • Suborder: Haplorhini
  • Infraorder: Simiiformes
  • Family: Hominidae
  • Subfamily: Homininae
  • Tribe: Hominini
  • Genus: Pan
  • Species: P. paniscus


The bonobo is generally tipped to be more graceful than the common chimpanzee. Although in terms of mass and weight, a large male chimpanzee surpasses the Bonobo.

The two species actually largely coincide in body size. Adult female bonobos are slightly smaller than adult males. The adult males usually weigh 75-132lbs as compared to that of the adult female which is 66lbs.

On all fours, from the nose to the torso, the length of the Bonobo is between 28-33in. The head of the Bonobo is moderately small as compared to that of the common chimpanzee with a less pronounced forehead crest over the eyes.

In terms of facial description, the Bonobo has a black face, small ears, pink lips, wide nostrils, long hair that forms a pathway on the head. The breasts of the female Bonobo are more pronounced compared to that of the other female apes but not as pronounced as those of humans.

The posture and the physical features of the Bonobo give it an appearance very similar to that of humans to those of the common chimpanzee

There is a deviation in the facial characteristics of the Bonobo just like in the case of humans, which is very important for facial recognition during social interaction among the Bonobos.

It has been shown through Multivariate analysis that Bonobos are neotenized more than the common chimpanzee taking into cognizance such characteristics as the moderately long trunk length of the bonobo, though this analysis has been a topic of controversy among other researchers.


Social Behavior

Bonobos are distinguished among nonhuman apes because of how socially organized they are. There is a bloc of highly ranked females at the top of the hierarchy as well as few highly ranked males in which an experienced, old senior matriarch serves in the capacity of a decision-maker and the head of the group.

In some bonobo communities, there is usually a poor development of coalition among the males where is the case between the females is very different. Juveniles usually receive the help of their mothers in resolving conflicts with other males, as well as form good ties with other females, thereby promoting their chances of having grandchildren from their young males.

As a result of their random Mating with male bonobos, it is always difficult for a male bonobo to know his offspring, hence it is the job of the mothers to assume the paternity of their offspring.

This does not put the bonobo higher than the common chimpanzee in terms of random Mating. Bonobos are not known to force their females into mating, unlike the common chimpanzee.

Sociosexual behaviour

Sexual activity plays a primary part in the bonobo society, according to scientists, this sexual activity is often used as an avenue for settling conflicts, for social bonding, as a form of greeting, etc.

Only humans and bonobos are the only primates to have been observed to engage in face-to-face genital sex. Bonobos are also observed to be the only non-human animal to have been involved in tongue kissing.

Sexual activity among bonobos can also be used to relieve tension and promote peaceful feeding when they come across any source of food, this excitement at the sight of a food source is what triggers this sexual activity in bonobos.


Survey shows that 57% of the food consumed by a bonobo is mostly fruit, though it also feeds on eggs, honey, leaves. They are omnivores but they also feed on flying squirrels and duikers and some invertebrates.

Distribution and Habitat

Bonobos have made the Southern part of the Congo River and also the north of the Kasai River their home.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
You May Also Like