The Star Early Edition

New great ape dis­cov­ered

- Biology · Animals · Zoology · Science · Ecology · Wildlife · Indonesia · Australian National University

SCI­EN­TISTS have dis­cov­ered a sev­enth liv­ing species of great ape, and it is al­ready con­sid­ered the most en­dan­gered of them all.

Aside from hu­mans there were six known great ape species, in­clud­ing go­ril­las, chim­panzees and bono­bos. Two of these were Bornean and Su­ma­tran orang-utans, un­til a study found that an iso­lated pop­u­la­tion of orang-utans liv­ing in Su­ma­tra was ac­tu­ally its own species.

These orang-utans, it has emerged, have smaller skulls and larger teeth as well as frizzier hair and a prom­i­nent mous­tache.

En­coun­tered for the first time in 1997, it took a care­ful ex­am­i­na­tion of a skele­ton taken from the Batang Toru area of North Su­ma­tra in In­done­sia four years ago to dis­cover the unique char­ac­ter­is­tics of our dis­tant ape rel­a­tive. How­ever, only 800 of the orang-utans, given the sci­en­tific name pongo tapan­ulien­sis, re­main.

Erik Mei­jaard, a mem­ber of the re­search team which dis­cov­ered the orang-utans, from the Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity, said: “Great apes are among the best-stud­ied species in the world. If af­ter 200 years of se­ri­ous bi­o­log­i­cal re­search we can still find new species in this group, what does it tell us about all the other stuff that we are over­look­ing – hid­den species, un­known eco­log­i­cal re­la­tion­ships?”

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