Sci­en­tists iden­tify new great ape species in In­done­sia

The Week - Junior - - Front Page -

The world of sci­ence erupted with ex­cite­ment on 2 Novem­ber af­ter a re­search team an­nounced that it had dis­cov­ered a new species of great ape – the Ta­pan­uli orang­utan. Great apes are a group of species that in­cludes bono­bos, chim­panzees, east­ern and western gorillas, hu­mans and Su­ma­tran and Bornean orang­utans.

The new ape, dis­cov­ered by a team of sci­en­tists from Liver­pool John Moores Uni­ver­sity and the Uni­ver­sity of Zurich, was found in North Su­ma­tra, In­done­sia. Sci­en­tists iden­ti­fied the ape as a new species by study­ing its fa­cial struc­ture, its be­hav­iour, the sounds it makes and the tex­ture of its hair.

The team com­pared the skull and jaws of a male Ta­pan­uli orang­utan to those of 33 males be­long­ing to the other two species of orang­utan and found that it is slightly smaller. They also dis­cov­ered that Ta­pan­uli males have mous­taches and bushy beards, whereas the fe­males have wispy beards. De­spite living near the Su­ma­tran orang­utan, the Ta­pan­uli orang­utan is in fact more closely re­lated to its cousins in Bor­neo.

How­ever, it isn’t all good news. There are only 800 of these apes left in the wild, which means the species goes straight on the Crit­i­cally En­dan­gered list. In fact, they are now the most en­dan­gered great ape species on the planet, mainly be­cause of hu­mans cut­ting down the trees where they live. Pro­fes­sor Serge Wich, co-au­thor of the study, said, “If steps are not taken quickly to re­duce cur­rent and fu­ture threats to con­serve ev­ery last re­main­ing bit of for­est, we may see the dis­cov­ery and ex­tinc­tion of a great ape species within our life­time.”

The Ta­pan­uli orang­utan has an un­usual face shape.

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