Orangutan Evolution


The orangutan is one of the great apes and they are the only apes in Asia. They have been studied for years and have fascinated humans even longer. They are considered as smart as the other great apes like gorillas or smarter. They are also known for their intelligence because they are some of the only animals to use tools to make things easier.

Humans And Orangutans

There are numerous similarities between humans and orangutans; it is not unusual for this to be sited in the battle to conserve the orangutan.  Both people and orangutans belong to the order of primates. The primates are one of the mammal groups that are the oldest and have survived the longest.  Primates have been around for at least 65 million years, when the first small arboreal mammals appeared eating insects and hanging from tree limbs. This is when the process of species diversification began, gaining us all the different primates we know and love, which happens to be one of the most varied and disperse groups of animals.

Where Apes Started

It is likely that initial apes were evolved from this first, monkey-like tree dweller. As this monkey descended and evolved it would lose some features (the tail needed while up high) in favor of other features (more strength).

Primates have two sub orders they are divided into. The strepsirrhines and the ones that belong to this grouping are Madagascan lemurs, lorises of Asia and Angwantibo’s of Africa. Apes, simians, and tarsiers are with the classification of Haplorhines. The Haplorhines have the largest brain in comparison to the other classifications. They also have hands and feet that are adapted. In addition, the apes in Haplorhines classification have drier noses and they are able to make a lot more facial expressions.

Thirty Million Years Ago & Primates

The Simians was broken into two other groups about 35 million years ago. These two groups are the Platyrrhini and the Catarrhini. The Platyrrhini has the modern day Central and Southern American monkeys (New World Monkeys). The Catarrhini are comprised of Old World African and Asian monkeys and apes. The Catarrhini split into two different superfamilies nearly 25 million years ago. The Cercopithecoidea is comprised of chimps, gibbons, orangutans, gorillas and bonobo’s. The only surviving member of the second group, Hominoidea is humans.

Twenty Million Years Ago

About 23 million years ago another primate had similarities to humans. Proconsul had four species and a similar posture to a monkey. Though it had features similar to a monkey, its grasp, lack of a tail, facial expressions and strong grabbing abilities places it as an ape. Proconsul is considered a step between monkeys to apes.

Ten Million Years

Somewhere between 9 to 17 million years past the first known ape species migrated to Asia and Europe. This migration also gave clues to what our ancestors did. These were from the genus of apes called Dryopithecus and had similarities to monkeys in many ways. The bone structure of the arms suggested it moved in the trees much like that of the gibbon or orangutan.

From here about ten million years ago there were three different species of Sivapithecus in the rainforests of Asia. They had similar attributes to the chimpanzee but its face and dentistry were more like an orangutan. Evidence of this species has been found in China, Pakistan and Turkey. Today, Sivapithecus is known to be the direct ancestor of the orangutan we know and love today. He was thought to branch away from the line with humans, bonobos, chimps and gorillas nearly 12 million years ago. In Asia an orangutan is the only ape that is non-human.

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