The Star Early Edition
New great ape discovered
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?”