Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Hylobatidae

Gibbons are small (20-30 pounds) apes of the above taxonomic classification which have a diploid chromosome number of 44. They are popular in zoos due to their great agility and brachiating ability. Gibbons are naturally found in the treetops of the rainforests of South-East Asia and Indonesia. They are much faster in the trees than on the ground, and thus spend the majority of their time there.

Being quite closely related to humans, Gibbons are anatomically very similar. They are posessed of the same internal organs, and the same bones as humans, but appear quite drastically different due to different proportions, and the much greater quantity of fur which gibbons have. This fur is usually grey, white, black or cream, but patterns vary dramatically between species. Gibbons have very long arms for their body length. These enable the gibbon to swing through the trees faster than a man can run. Like the great apes, and unlike the monkeys gibbons do not have developed tails, but this in no way impedes their acrobatic ability. Their legs are more in proportion, and used for walking along branches.

Gibbons have well developed throat muscles that enable them to make great noises. In some cases, such as in the Siamang gibbons this manifests itself in the form of an inflatable throat pouch. With this equipment some gibbons are capable of producing sounds that can be heard from several miles away. Gibbons make sounds for several purposes, the most important of which are territorial warning, and the attraction of mates.

Having acquired a mates, gibbons become monogamous, and live in family units which consist of an adult male, an adult female and their immature offspring. Mature gibbons leave their family to find a mate. The gestation period of gibbons is usually around 7 months, after which the female gives birth to a single baby gibbon, which clings onto it's mothers fur until it can eat solid food.

Gibbons live mainly on fruit, and tender new leaves, but also eat insects. As omnivores they will also eat bird's eggs and whatever else is at hand. They find all these within the treetops, but must travel down do ground level to drink from puddles. Thankfully these are common in the rainforest, where it rains almost every day.

Many gibbon species are endangered. Poachers kill adult gibbons for their fur, and capture young gibbons for use as pets. Unfortunately gibbons do not domesticate well, and so when these grow up they are usually abandoned. Another factor that may lead to gibbon extinction is the rapid rate at which their forest habitat is being destroyed.


  • Primates, by liveforever

Gib"bon (?), n. [Cf. F. gibbon.] Zool.

Any arboreal ape of the genus Hylobates, of which many species and varieties inhabit the East Indies and Southern Asia. They are tailless and without cheek pouches, and have very long arms, adapted for climbing.

<-- common subtypes --> ⇒ The white-handed gibbon (Hylobates lar), the crowned (H. pilatus), the wou-wou or singing gibbon (H. agilis), the siamang, and the hoolock. are the most common species.


© Webster 1913.

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