Bonobo type specimen (Pan paniscus)

Historical background

On December 6, 1927, the Congo Museum (now Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium) received the skull and the skin of an adult female chimpanzee collected in the Congo River basin, more or less 30 km south of Befalé, a town located south of the upper Maringa River, a confluent of the Lulonga, itself confluent of the Congo River, in the DR Congo.

This female chimpanzee skull (registered #9338) was first classified as the type of Pan satyrus paniscus, a subspecies of the eastern chimpanzee (Schwarz, 1929).

Soon after the publication of Schwarz, the taxon was elevated to species rank, calling it Pan paniscus, in the first major study on the pygmy chimpanzee (Coolidge, 1933).

Since the last 20 years, the development of new methodologies (geometric morphometrics, imaging facilities…) and tools (digitalizers, surface or CT scanners…) caused a growing demand for access to the osteological collection of great apes of the Royal Museum for Central Africa. Preservation and valorisation of collections are two antagonist missions for institutions.

Osteological collections are by nature composed by rare, fragile and irreplaceable specimens. Multiplication of manipulations may at term prevent the preservation of the specimens integrity. However, the value of a collection highly depends on the amount of growing knowledge which results from the studies that are led on it. For these reasons, we choose to provide access to complete data for the type specimen of Pan paniscus in order to allow other scientists to include this key specimen in their own research.


Data available for study

The skull and mandible were CT scanned together with a Siemens Sensation 64 at the KU Leuven, Belgium. A 3D model was reconstructed with this data. We quantified the 3D coordinates of a long list of landmarks (N=116) on the skull and mandible of #9338. The landmarks characterize the face (N=43), the mandible (N=20), the calvaria (N=33) and the endocranial surface (N=20).

Rules of proper use

The data are available for scientific use but remain the property of the Royal Museum for Central Africa. Copyright information (© Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium) must always be mentioned. Any publication must reference:

Internal cranial anatomy of the type specimen of Pan paniscus and available data for study, Antoine Balzeau, Emmanuel Gilissen, Wim Wendelen, Walter Coudyzer, J Hum Evol, 2009

The data must not be used for any commercial purpose, nor must it be used for the purposes of physically reconstructing the specimen in forms such as a stereolithograph etc.

Download section


The original CT dataset is freely available on request to the curator of the primate collection of the RMCA. Fill the form and send it to Emmanuel Gilissen (


En savoir plus

For more information about the collections of African great apes, contact Emmanuel Gilissen (

Additional information about the CT acquisition and the 3D model (pdf, 34 Kb)

English translation of the original publication of Schwarz, E., (1929) (pdf 13 Kb)

Coolidge, H.J., 1933. Pan paniscus: pygmy chimpanzee from south of the Congo River. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 18, 1-57.
Schwarz, E., 1929. Das Vorkommen des Schimpansen auf den linken Kongo-Ufer. Rev. Zool. Bot. Afr. 16, 425-426.