Five tandem repeat loci were studied in humans and chimpanzees using VNTR probes derived from human DNA. Shared alleles were found at three loci and were often the modal allele in one species but never in both. There was no difference in the mean number of alleles per locus. However, these species exhibited substantially different levels of gene diversity, with chimpanzees monomorphic at two loci. Evidence of reduced variability in chimpanzees corroborates earlier comparisons using isozymes and plasma proteins. Molecular mechanisms, population dynamics, or both may be responsible for these differences. Equal numbers of alleles per locus may reflect high mutation rates. By one test, chimpanzees were out of equilibrium at one locus, which may reflect a typing error or population substructure. The long divergence time, and the high probability of backward mutations, precludes accurate estimation of genetic distance between these species.