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Apes vs. Human: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 22, 2023
Apes are a group of primates without tails, while humans are a unique species within the ape group with advanced cognitive abilities and bipedalism.

Key Differences

Apes are a category of primates that encompass several species, including gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans. Humans, on the other hand, are specifically referred to as Homo sapiens, a distinct species within the ape lineage that has developed advanced cognitive and cultural capacities.
While all apes, including humans, share common ancestors, the evolutionary paths have led to noticeable distinctions. For instance, apes generally have a more robust and hirsute physique, while humans are characterized by a larger brain relative to body size and less body hair.
In terms of behavior, apes exhibit complex social structures, use tools, and communicate using vocalizations and gestures. Humans, however, have developed sophisticated languages, cultures, technologies, and civilizations that are unparalleled in the animal kingdom.
Apes predominantly reside in natural habitats like forests and display both arboreal and terrestrial lifestyles. Humans have showcased adaptability by inhabiting various environments worldwide, from dense cities to remote areas, and have significantly modified their surroundings.
The DNA of apes and humans is remarkably similar, highlighting our shared evolutionary history. Yet, it's the subtle genetic differences, coupled with environmental factors, that have driven the divergence between humans and their ape cousins.

Comparison Chart

Taxonomic Classification

Broad category (e.g., gorillas, chimps).
Specific species (Homo sapiens).

Physical Characteristics

More robust, hairy.
Less body hair, bipedal, larger brain relative to size.


Natural environments like forests.
Various, including urban and rural areas worldwide.

Language and Culture

Use gestures, vocalizations.
Sophisticated languages, cultures, technologies.

Evolutionary Path

Shared ancestry but different evolutionary paths.
Unique trajectory leading to advanced cognition, culture.

Apes and Human Definitions


Tailless primates closely related to humans.
The gorilla is one of the largest apes in the wild.


Possesses a unique cultural and technological heritage.
From art to architecture, the human touch is evident in creations worldwide.


Animals displaying complex social behaviors.
Observing apes in the wild provides insight into their intricate societies.


Characterized by advanced cognitive abilities and language use.
The human brain allows for complex problem-solving and creativity.


Inhabit tropical and subtropical regions.
Apes are predominantly found in African and Asian forests.


A species of primate known as Homo sapiens.
Human civilizations have thrived due to their adaptability and intelligence.


Includes species like chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans.
Some apes use tools to access food or for other tasks.


Capable of erect posture and bipedal locomotion.
Unlike many primates, the human walks upright on two legs.


Known for their strength and agility.
Apes can swing from tree to tree with impressive speed.


Exhibits moral reasoning and self-awareness.
Philosophical debates highlight the human quest for meaning.


Any of various tailless Old World primates of the superfamily Hominoidea, including the gibbons, orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans.


A member of the primate genus Homo, especially a member of the species Homo sapiens, distinguished from other apes by a large brain and the capacity for speech.


Did humans evolve from apes?

Humans and modern apes share a common ancestor but evolved along different paths.

Are humans considered apes?

Yes, humans are a species within the ape group.

Can apes recognize themselves in mirrors?

Some apes, like chimpanzees, have shown self-recognition in mirror tests.

How close is the DNA of apes and humans?

Very close, with over 98% similarity between human and chimpanzee DNA, for instance.

Are there apes outside of Africa and Asia?

While native to Africa and Asia, apes can be found worldwide in zoos and sanctuaries.

Are humans the only species with a concept of art?

Humans have a unique and rich artistic tradition, though apes can also display creative behaviors.

Do apes have languages like humans?

Apes communicate with gestures and vocalizations but don't have languages as complex as human languages.

Are all apes endangered?

Many ape species are threatened or endangered due to habitat loss and other factors.

Do apes have societies like humans?

Apes have complex social structures, but not societies in the human sense of organized communities with institutions.

What distinguishes humans from other apes?

Advanced cognitive abilities, language, culture, and bipedalism are among the distinctions.

Can apes walk upright like humans?

Some apes can walk bipedally for short distances, but humans are adapted for long-term bipedal locomotion.

What's the primary habitat of apes?

Most apes reside in tropical and subtropical forests.

Can apes learn human languages?

Some apes have been taught sign language or symbols but don't use language as spontaneously and complexly as humans.

Is it correct to say "humans and animals"?

It's common, but technically humans are also animals, specifically primates.

What's the lifespan of an ape compared to a human?

Lifespans vary among apes but are generally shorter than humans, who can live into their 70s or beyond.

Can apes create tools like humans?

Apes can use and modify tools, but human tool use and creation are more advanced.

Is the human brain much larger than that of apes?

Proportionally, the human brain is larger relative to body size and has unique structural differences.

Why are humans called Homo sapiens?

"Homo sapiens" is Latin for "wise man," reflecting our cognitive capabilities.

Do humans and apes have similar diets?

Both have omnivorous potential, but diets vary based on species and availability. Humans have more varied diets due to agriculture and technology.

Are humans the most intelligent primates?

In terms of cognitive and technological abilities, humans surpass other primates, though "intelligence" can be multifaceted.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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