Pongo Pygmaeus, or the Orangutan, is a modern primate of the sub-Order Athropoidea, infra-Order Catarrhini, super-Family Hominoidea, Family Pongidae, and sub-Family Ponginea. The Orangutan is native to tropical rainforests, swamp forests, and mountain forests of up to 2,000 meters. On average, an adult Orangutan weighs around 86 kilograms, and a female about 38 kilograms. Orangutans exhibit a large degree of sexual dimorphism which may be the cause for the distinction in weight between the males and females, since males are greatly competitive with one another for mates. Males also have two physiological distinctions: they have flaps of fatty tissue hanging from the sides of their face which develops in adulthood, and they also have throat sacs which enhance their ability to produce vocal calls both for attracting a mate and to declare territory.

Orangutans consume insects, some small vertebrates, and a wide variety of natural vegetation. They also consume soil to increase the minerals in their diet. Pongo Pygmaeus is both an arboreal and a diurnal species; this is best demonstrated by the fact that they construct a unique nest every night to sleep in on a tree, sometimes elevated to heights of 24 meters. Most of the Orangutan’s locomotion occurs on trees and requires a great discipline for climbing, however, the older males will spend much of their time on the ground moving quadrupedally, supporting themselves with their wrists on their forearms.

Each male Orangutan has its own territory which overlaps with a female’s territory; multiple males may have their territories overlap a female since Orangutans are naturally polygamous. Males only occasionally check on a female, and usually only during mating season. In the mean time, an infant Orangutan would spend its time with its mother until it is old enough to claim a territory of its own or, if it is a female infant, to leave its mother and survive on its own. A curious social behavior of Orangutans is social grooming, this is the act of one Orangutan picking dead skin and parasites from another Orangutan; this is a visible, social bond shared between a mother and her offspring.

As stated before, Pongo Pygmaeus is a member of the super-Family Hominoidea, which is the last branch shared between them and modern humans. The Hominoidea species’ exhibit the unique, primate qualities such as a lack of a tail and a small thumb insufficient for quick, arboreal locomotion. Along with Humans and Orangutans, this classification is also shared with the Gorilla and the Chimpanzee. On the tree of primate evolution, Orangutans are found to be strikingly similar to Humans in many respects, we share a common ancestor which is believed to have lived in Africa (the place from which both of our earliest ancestors arose) and we can see a clear distinction between the Orangutan and the Prosimians such as lemurs and tarsiers, which are placed on a respectively distant branch (relatively).


Primate Fact Sheet – www.primates.com

Introduction to Primates – www.wwnorton.com

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