What is it about?

Facial similarities between parents and children or siblings are easily spotted in humans. We wanted to see if the same is true for our closest living relative, chimpanzees, using images of wild chimpanzees. They are a social species, like us, so being able to recognise who might be related to them could help them gain allies and support, or avoid inbreeding. Using an online game, we asked participants to try and match the chimpanzees they think are related. We found that related chimpanzees do resemble each other, with the resemblance increasing with age, sex, with females resembling their relatives more, and depends on relatedness type too, with fathers and their offspring looking the most similar.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

While research has been done on facial resemblance in chimpanzees, ours is the first to use images from wild chimpanzees, and chimpanzees from all ages. The risks and importance of advertising relatedness might change throughout the lifetime of a chimpanzee, impacting how similar they look to their relatives as a baby versus as an adult. Seeing if this trait is present in chimpanzees also lets us infer how our last common ancestor could have behaved.


Working with wild chimpanzees, the only family relations that are clear to us without a DNA test are mothers and their offspring, and maternal siblings close in age. While we can't use it as scientific data, we do like to try and guess who a new infant's father might be based on the shape of their ears, the curve of their brow, or if two adult males who are close to each other might be brothers because they have the same eyes. Setting up our online game I did not expect how popular it would be, but within the first few weeks of it being online, we had an amazing number of responses. It looks like it's not just primatologists who enjoy a good game of chimpanzee Who's Who!

Hella Péter
University of Kent

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Recognition of visual kinship signals in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) by humans (Homo sapiens)., Journal of Comparative Psychology, November 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/com0000327.
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