Difference Between Gorilla and Chimpanzee

The main difference between gorilla and chimpanzee is that the gorilla is the second closest relative to humans whereas the chimpanzee is the closest relative to humans. Furthermore, gorilla has a large body and a small brain while chimpanzee has a small body but a large brain.

Gorilla and chimpanzee are tailless primates, who make up the family Hominidae along with orangutans and humans. They are commonly called Great apes.

Key Areas Covered

1. Gorilla
     – Definition, Characteristics, Behavior
2. Chimpanzee
     – Definition, Characteristics, Behavior
3. What are the Similarities Between Gorilla and Chimpanzee
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Gorilla and Chimpanzee
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Behaviour, Body Structure, Chimpanzee, Classification, Diet, Gorilla, Great Apes

Difference Between Gorilla and Chimpanzee - Comparison Summary

Gorilla – Definition, Characteristics, Behavior

Gorillas are the largest Great apes, who are the second closest relatives of humans. They are exclusively herbivores and live on the ground. But, they rarely stand upright. Adult male gorillas grow up to 400-600 pounds and can be six feet tall. But, females are shorter. Their hair colour is dark brown to black while males have silvery hair on the back. Therefore, they are often called the silverbacks. The skull of the adult gorilla is domed. Gorillas have strong arms and stout canine teeth. Therefore, most gorilla’s diet composes of twigs, leaves and shoots.

Difference Between Gorilla and Chimpanzee

Figure 1: Western Gorilla

The two species of gorilla are Western gorilla and Eastern gorilla. The two subspecies of Western gorilla are Western lowland gorilla (G. g. gorilla) and Cross River gorilla (G. g. diehli). Mountain gorilla (G. b. beringei) and Eastern lowland gorilla (G. b. graueri) are the two subspecies of Eastern gorilla. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is considered to evolve from gorilla’s simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) by a mutation.

Chimpanzee – Definition, Characteristics, Behavior

Chimpanzee is the closest great apes to humans, who are native only to Africa. They are carnivores and eat fruits, meat, and insects. Adult male chimpanzees grow up to 150 pounds and are four feet tall. Their females are quite smaller. Chimpanzee’s arms are longer than their legs. The hair colour of chimpanzees is dark brown to black. The hair does not grow in the regions of the body such as fingers, palms, feet and face. The nose of a chimpanzee is flat. They have large ears. Chimpanzees are capable of learning sign language. They can use tools as well. Chimpanzees walk with a swagger that swings the shoulders forward and back. But, they are very good climbers.

Main Difference - Gorilla and Chimpanzee

Figure 2: Bonobo

The two species of chimpanzee are common chimpanzee (P. troglodytes) and bonobo (P. paniscus). Central chimpanzee (P. t. troglodytes), Western chimpanzee (P. t. verus), Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (P. t. ellioti), and Eastern chimpanzee (P. t. schweinfurthii) are the subspecies of common chimpanzee. The common chimpanzee lives south of the Sahara and north of the Congo River while bonobo lives south of the Congo.

Similarities Between Gorilla and Chimpanzee

  • Gorilla and chimpanzee are Great apes, who belong to the family Hominidae.
  • They are close relatives of humans.
  • Both are tailless primates.
  • They have four legs with fingernails and opposable thumbs. They are prehensile.
  • Both have hair that is mostly black in colour.
  • They have higher body-to-brain ratios. So, they are intelligent.
  • They have 48 chromosomes in their genome.
  • Both have binocular vision with death perception. But, their olfactory sense is poor.

Difference Between Gorilla and Chimpanzee


Gorilla refers to the largest living primate with a powerfully built found in the forests of central Africa while chimpanzee refers to a great ape with mainly black colouration, and lighter skin on the face, native to the forests of west and central Africa.


The genus of gorilla is Gorilla while the genus of chimpanzee is Pan.


Gorilla live in the dense forests of central Africa while chimpanzee lives in both north and south of the Congo. Further, gorilla lives on the ground but, chimpanzee lives on the ground and in trees.


Gorilla is the largest Great apes while chimpanzee is small.

Skull and the Brain

The skull of the gorilla is domed while the skull of the chimpanzee is rounded. Also, the size of the brain of the gorilla is small when compared to the size of the brain of the chimpanzee. Thereby, the chimpanzee is more intelligent than a gorilla.


Gorillas are exclusively herbivores while chimpanzees are mostly herbivores but, they also feed on meat and insects. Further, gorillas eat fewer fruits but more twigs, leaves and shoots while most of the part of the chimpanzee meals contain of fruits.


Gorilla make nests on the ground while chimpanzees make their nests in the trees.


The gorilla’s lifespan is 35-40 years while a common chimpanzee lives for about 50 years.


Chimpanzee shows advanced behaviour such as the learning sign language, making and using tools.


Gorilla is a large, exclusively herbivorous Great apes, who are the second closest relatives to humans while chimpanzee is a small but, intelligent Great ape, who is the closest relative to humans. The main difference between gorilla and chimpanzee is the Body structure, behavior and the genetic similarity.


1. Bradford, Alina. “Gorilla Facts.” LiveScience, Purch, 30 Sept. 2014, Available Here
2. “Chimpanzee.” National Geographic, 10 May 2011, Available Here   

Image Courtesy:

1. “Male gorilla in SF zoo” By Brocken Inaglory – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia    
2. “Bonobo 009” (CC BY-SA 2.5) via Commons Wikimedia 

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things. She has a keen interest in writing articles regarding science.

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