These orangutans are the latest species of nice ape, and there are fewer than 800 left


Hello Pongo tapanuliensis, and welcome to the household!

As of this week, these orangutans are being acknowledged as a definite species of nice ape. That brings to eight the variety of nice ape species alive immediately.

Two of the others are additionally orangutans (Sumatran and Bornean). Another two are gorillas (japanese and western). Then there are chimpanzees and their shut relations, bonobos. And lastly, there’s us.

P. tapanuliensis often is the latest member of our household tree, however they might not final lengthy. Fewer than 800 of them are left of their native Indonesia, and except conservation measures are taken quickly, they may succumb to threats reminiscent of habitat loss and inbreeding.

Read on to be taught extra about your fellow nice apes. If you’re not eager on their scientific identify, you’ll be able to name them Tapanuli orangutans.

How was this species found?

It started with an unlucky encounter in November 2013 between a male orangutan and a bunch of villagers within the South Tapanuli District of North Sumatra. The orangutan sustained mortal accidents within the “orangutan-human conflict,” in keeping with a report revealed Thursday within the journal Current Biology.

After the animal’s demise, scientists studied its cranium and in contrast it with these of 34 different grownup male orangutans. They discovered sufficient variations to persuade them that the Tapanuli orangutan represented a separate species.

A skull belonging to Pongo tapanuliensis, the newly recognized orangutan species.
A cranium belonging to Pongo tapanuliensis, the newly acknowledged orangutan species. Alexander Nater et al

What sorts of variations?

It has a smaller cranium, a shallower face and a extra angled facial profile. It additionally has narrower eye sockets and a narrower mouth, amongst greater than a dozen different small however vital bodily variations cited within the Current Biology report.

The report authors additionally wrote that the decision of male Tapanuli orangutans units them aside from different orangutans. Their “long call” has the next most frequency, which makes for the next pitch. It additionally lasts longer (greater than 111 seconds is typical, in contrast with lower than 90 seconds for Bornean orangutans) and accommodates extra “pulses” which might be delivered at the next fee.

Can you inform them aside by them?

If their general look have been drastically completely different, maybe they might have been acknowledged as a definite species prior to now. They look extra like Sumatran orangutans in some respects and extra like Bornean orangutans in others.

The scientists famous that Tapanuli orangutans have a “linear body build” like their Sumatran cousins, however with frizzier hair. The males have giant, flat cheek pads generally known as flanges that bear a more in-depth resemblance to these of Bornean orangutans. However, feminine Tapanuli orangutans have beards, whereas feminine Bornean orangutans don’t.

Experts estimate that there are fewer than 800 Tapanuli orangutans left in the world, making their prospects for survival unclear.
Experts estimate that there are fewer than 800 Tapanuli orangutans left on the earth, making their prospects for survival unclear. Maxime Aliaga

How are the three species badociated?

DNA proof from 37 orangutans means that the widespread ancestor of all residing orangutans got here from mainland Asia to Southeast Asia, arriving in an space of Sumatra south of present-day Lake Toba. The Tapanuli orangutans are direct descendants of those pioneers.

About three.four million years in the past, a few of these early orangutans moved north of Lake Toba, turning into the ancestors of the Sumatran orangutans. Then, about 675,000 years in the past, one other group from south of Lake Toba break up off, turning into the ancestors of the Bornean orangutans.

Even after these ancestral teams break up off, there continued to be some genetic mixing between the Sumatran and Tapanuli orangutans till about 10,000 to 20,000 years in the past, when habitat loss left the Tapanuli species utterly remoted from the others.

What are their prospects for survival?

That’s unclear. With fewer than 800 left, the Tapanuli orangutans are the smallest of the three species. In truth, they’re smaller than another species of nice ape. That consists of the critically endangered Mountain gorillas, a sub-species of Eastern gorillas, in keeping with the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme.

The examine authors concern that the inhabitants may get even smaller. Humans hunt them, kill them to guard crops and seize them for commerce, they wrote. They additionally destroy the animals’ habitat within the Batang Toru forest by clearing timber and constructing roads. A proposal to construct a hydroelectric plant may deprive them of as much as eight% of their remaining vary, the researchers famous.

“A combination of small population size and geographic isolation is of particular high conservation concern, as it may lead to inbreeding,” they wrote. The DNA of two Tapanuli orangutans accommodates signatures of latest inbreeding, they added.

“To ensure long-term survival of P. tapanuliensis, conservation measures need to be implemented swiftly,” they wrote.

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