Given that we share around 99% of our DNA, it is not surprising that chimpanzees and humans have much in common. Both species, for example, are very territorial. We might not think of ourselves as territorial creatures, but imagine how you might feel if you looked out your living room window and saw a stranger standing in your front yard peering in at you. Free-living chimpanzee communities will defend their territories, sometimes violently, against intruders from neighboring communities. (Sound familiar?)
One of the ways chimpanzees express their territoriality is through a display. During a display, a chimpanzee stands bipedally (upright); swaggers back and forth; makes a lot of noise by banging or throwing objects; and exhibits pilo-erect hair (hair standing on end). All of these behaviors serve to make the individual appear much bigger and more intimidating than he or she really is.
Defending a territory isn’t the only reason a chimpanzee might display; displays can also be associated with dominance. Jamie, who is the most dominant member of the Cle Elum Seven, displays several times a day. (Although it is almost always male chimpanzees who display in free-living situations, it is not uncommon for females to display — and to be dominant — in captivity.) Jamie displays to defend her home, to exert her dominance, and even, it seems, to alleviate boredom.
Below is a video of one of Jamie’s displays. You’ll notice many of the behaviors I described above. Despite spending the last three decades in the most unnatural and impoverished situations, it seems Jamie has figured out just how to be a chimpanzee.