Just like humans, chimpanzees use a wide variety of facial expressions to display their emotions. Since we often think of chimps as so similar to humans, you can see how easy it might be for newcomers to chimpanzee behavior to misinterpret some of the photos they might see out there of chimps seemingly grinning happily for the photographer. Here’s a little tour of some chimpanzee facial expressions we see on a daily basis and the meanings behind them.
Negra’s pout face. She often pouts when she is uneasy in a situation or she is trying to assert her dominance and take something from another chimpanzee. One way or another, she usually receives a lot of reassurance from her friends when she is pouting and whimpering:
Here are two happy chimpanzees (Missy and Annie) displaying giant play faces. Notice how their top lips cover their top teeth and their bottom teeth are exposed. This is how you smile like a chimpanzee!
Now compare those happy smiles to these full open grin fear grimaces that Annie and Jamie are showing here. I can almost hear them screaming at each other (maybe over a food disagreement?).:
Needless to say, they aren’t happy in this photo. We’ve probably all seen photos of young chimps dressed up in costumes and posing on the cover of greeting cards or in commercials with similar fearful expressions as Annie and Jamie. To learn more about how you can advocate on the behalf of these chimpanzees, follow this link and thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge with others.