Chimpanzee Adaptations: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Lindsy Frazer

Dr. Frazer has taught several college level Science courses and has a master's degree in Human Biology and a PhD in Library and Information Science.

What is a chimpanzee's favorite song? Jungle Bells! That's a fun joke, but chimpanzees probably don't listen to music. They do, however, have many adaptations that help them survive in the rainforests of Africa.

What are Adaptations?

A day at the beach can be a lot of fun, but you have to watch out for the sun. What are some things you do to protect yourself from the sun? Wear sunscreen, sit under a big umbrella, maybe take a dip in the water to cool off? Even our skin tans to protect us from the sun's rays. These things are ways humans adapt (fit in) to hot, sunny environments.

Just like humans at the beach, all living things have adaptations, physical and behavioral features that help them survive in their environment. Chimpanzees live mainly in the rainforests of Africa, and they have adaptations that allow them to survive and thrive in these hot, wet places. Let's take a closer look at the physical and behavioral adaptations of chimpanzees.

Physical Adaptations

Long Arms

Take a look at your arms. Now look at your legs. Which are longer? Humans' legs are much longer than their arms because we mostly get around by walking. But living in the rainforest, chimpanzees mostly get around by swinging! Their long arms make it easier to move from tree branch to tree branch to escape predators, search for food and hang out with friends.

Chimpanzees have long arms, an adaptation that helps them move around their forest homes.
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Opposable Thumbs and Big Toes

Try picking up a pencil and writing without using your thumb. That was likely very difficult! Thumbs like ours that face opposite the other four fingers are called opposable thumbs, and they can move and touch the tips of the other four fingers. As you saw when you tried to pick up your pencil, opposable thumbs make grabbing objects much easier.

Chimpanzees not only have opposable thumbs - they also have opposable big toes. These body parts help them grab tree branches, food and other objects with both their hands and feet.

Behavioral Adaptations

Hanging Out with Friends

Chimpanzees live together in large groups called troops. Sometimes, over 60 chimpanzees make up these communities. Living in large groups helps protect the chimpanzees from predators. Being part of a troop also helps the chimpanzees find and share food and learn things from each other.

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