An Allometric Perspective on the Morphological and Evolutionary Relationships between Pygmy (Pan Paniscus) and Common (Pan troglodytes) Chimpanzees

  • Brian T. Shea
Part of the The Pygmy Chimpanzee book series (EBIO)


The pygmy chimpanzee (Pan paniscus), or bonobo, has been the object of considerable primatological interest since its “discovery” in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Because pygmy and common chimpanzees differ in average adult size (although the amount of difference and degree of overlap are debatable), many have suggested that morphological differences between the species may be size-related, or allometric. For example, Corruccini and McHenry (1979) and McHenry and Corruccini, (1981) analyzed the cranium, postcranium, and dentition of P. paniscus and P. troglodytes, and concluded that many of the shape differences between the two species are due to allometry. Horn (1979) has made a similar suggestion. By contrast, Zihlman and others (e.g., Zihlman and Cramer, 1978; Zihlman et al., 1978; Zihlman, 1979, 1981) have argued that allometry cannot be invoked to explain the morphological differences between the chimpanzee species. In fact, Zihlman (1981, p. 6) suggests that we might view allometry as a “favorite anatomical fudge factor” which has obscured our understanding of the two chimpanzee species. In this paper and in other works (Shea, 1981a, 1982, 1983a-d; Coolidge and Shea, 1982), I have also analyzed the morphological differences between the chimpanzee species (and among the African pongids as a group) from an allometric perspective.


Tooth Size Skull Size Pygmy Chimpanzee Common Chimpanzee Chest Girth 
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© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian T. Shea
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA

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