For the first time, chimps have been seen assaulting and murdering gorillas in the wild, and scientists believe climate change is to blame.
The attacks occurred in Gabon, in central Africa, and were thought to be motivated by food competition.
Chimpanzees and gorillas have long had friendly relationships, and they have been photographed calmly foraging and even having playful encounters.
However, while studying chimps in Loango National Park, researchers witnessed two horrific and fatal mass battles.
Both encounters occurred as chimps were patrolling the outskirts of their region. The first combat lasted 52 minutes, while the second lasted 79.
A troop of 27 chimps attacked five gorillas for the first time, with researchers only 30 meters away.
Several chimps were harmed as the western lowland gorillas attempted to defend themselves.
Four adult gorillas fled, two silverbacks and two females, but an infant was killed.
More than two dozen chimps attacked seven gorillas in the second battle, killing an infant who was then eaten.
The report was published in the journal Nature by researchers from Osnabruck University and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.
They said that fruit was not as plentiful in Gabon's forests as it had been in the past, implying that climate change could be a cause.
However, they stated that additional research was needed to determine the source of the apes' outbreak of violence.
“At first, we only noticed chimpanzee screams and thought we were observing a typical encounter between individuals of neighboring chimpanzee communities,” Lara M. Southern, the study's author, said of the first attack.
“But then we heard chest beats, a gorilla-like display, and we realized the chimps had come across a group of five gorillas.”
During the fighting, the chimps took advantage of their bigger numbers, splitting off into smaller groups and dividing the gorillas.
Their actions revealed "functional parallels and evolutionary continuities between chimp violence and fatal intergroup raiding in humans," according to the researchers "According to the research,
“Once the first chimp who saw the gorillas let out an alarm bark or scream, the majority of the other group members reacted immediately and joined in, all barking together,” it stated.
“By examining the current pressures that these two species are facing, both in their environment and in the way they interact socially, we may be able to learn a little more about how we, as humans, 'rose to the top.'
“Now, more than ever, it is critical that we act to safeguard these endangered species."
According to one of the study's authors, Tobias Deschner, it was the "first evidence that the presence of chimps can have a lethal impact on gorillas."
“It's possible that chimps, gorillas, and forest elephants in Loango National Park share food resources, resulting in increased competition and, in some cases, lethal interactions between the two great ape species,” he added.