orangutan


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orangutan

(ōrăng`o͝otăn), an apeape,
any primate of the superfamily Hominoidea, which includes humans; this article, however, focuses on the nonhuman apes. The small apes, the gibbons and the siamang, and the orangutans, which belong to the great apes, are found in SE Asia.
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 of the genus Pongo, found in rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra. Highly specialized for arboreal life, orangutans usually travel by grasping branches with hands and feet and moving from tree to tree. Adult males are about 4 1-2 ft (1.4 m) tall and weigh up to 180 lbs (82 kg). Their arms are very long, the total span sometimes exceeding 7 ft (2.1 m). Their legs are short and bowed, making ground travel awkward; they walk with a side-to-side shuffle on all fours. The body is rotund and covered with long hair in various shades of red. The face of a young orangutan looks quite human; the name means "forest person" in Malay. Old males usually develop large cheek pads and facial hair that resembles a man's moustache and beard. Enormous throat pouches also develop with sexual maturation, which starts at about age 14.

Adult orangutans are basically solitary, except for mother-offspring pairs; however, weaned juveniles sometimes congregate in small groups. Males are aggressive toward each other and fight over females. Individual nests are usually constructed in trees each night. Fruit is a diet mainstay, and orangutans are important seed distributors.

The numbers of orangutans have dropped precipitously in the early 21st cent. owing to loss of habitat to deforestation (logging, forest fires, and clearing of land for plantations) and the killing of females for their young, to be sold as pets or zoo animals. The three species are listed as endangered or, in the case of the two species found on Sumatra, critically endangered. Orangutans are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Primates, family Hominidae.

Bibliography

See B. Galdikas, Orangutan Adaptation at Tanjung Puting Reserve, Central Borneo (1978); J. H. Schwartz, The Red Ape (1987).

Orangutan

 

(Pongo pygmaeus), a large anthropoid ape, the only representative of the genus Pongo. There are two subspecies: P. p. pygmaeus, from the island of Kalimantan, and P. p. abelii, from Sumatra.

Adult males measuring 130–150 cm tall weigh 100–150 kg. The females are much smaller than the males. The coat is coarse and very long and ranges in color from reddish to reddish brown. The face is naked and broad, and the ears are small. The males have large ridgelike cheek pads. The skull is long, and in females, has ridging. Cranial capacity is between 400 and 500 cc. There are no buttock pads or tail. The arms are very long, reaching as much as 3 m when extended. The hands are broad and long, but the thumbs are rudimentary. The legs are relatively short, and the feet are narrow and long-toed. The first toe is short and often lacks the nail. Both hand and feet are prehensile.

Orangutans live in marshy forests. They move through the trees by grasping branches with their hands and feet. On the ground they walk on all four limbs. Orangutans are found in small groups. They build shelters in which they sleep during the night. The animals feed on bird eggs and on the fruits of durian and other trees.

Orangutans reach sexual maturity between the ages of ten to 12 years. The gestation period is 275 days. The youngster, which weighs about 1.5 kg at birth, is nursed for three or four years. In the wild, orangutans may live 30 years. A rare and endangered species, the orangutan is protected by law.

REFERENCES

Weber, M. Primaty. Moscow-Leningrad, 1936. (Translated from German.)
Napier, J. K., and P. H. Napier. A Handbook of Living Primates. London-New York, 1967.

T. D. GLADKOVA

orangutan

[ə′raŋ·ü‚tan]
(vertebrate zoology)
Pongo pygmaeus. The largest of the great apes, a long-armed primate distinguished by long sparse reddish-brown hair, naked face and hands and feet, and a large laryngeal cavity which appears as a pouch below the chin.
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