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Orangutan in forest

2018 Top 10 New Species

Image by Andrew Walmsley

Tapanuli Orangutan: Endangered great apeESF Top 10 New Species of 2018

  • Pongo tapanuliensis

    Pongo tapanuliensis An adult female Tapanuli orangutan named Beta.
    Photo credit: Andrew Walmsley

  • Pongo tapanuliensis

    Pongo tapanuliensis An adult male Tapanuli orangutan named Togos resting
    Photo credit: Andrew Walmsley

map showing location of Tapanuli Orangutan Marancar, Tapanuli Forest Complex, North Sumatra, IndonesiaGoogle Maps view

About the Orangutan

Pongo tapanuliensis
Location: Sumatra, Indonesia

Until now, only half a dozen non-human great apes have been recognized. The eastern and western gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos are more closely related to humans than the orangutans which are the only great apes in Asia. In 2001, the orangutans of Sumatra and Borneo were recognized as distinct species, Pongo abelii and P. pygmaeus. An international team of researchers, examining morphometric, behavioral, and genomic evidence, have concluded that an isolated population at the southern range limit of Sumatran orangutans, in Batang Toru, is distinct from both northern Sumatran and Bornean species. Genomic evidence suggests that while the northern Sumatra and Borneo species separated about 674 thousand years ago, this southern Sumatra species diverged much earlier, about 3.38 million years ago. As soon as the significance of this isolated population was determined, it revealed the most imperiled great ape in the world. Only an estimated 800 individuals exist in fragmented habitat spread over about 250,000 acres (about 1,000 square kilometers) on medium elevation hills and submontane forests from about 1,000 to 4,000 feet (300 to 1,300 m) above sea level, with densest populations in primary forest. Size is similar to other orangutans, with females under 4 feet (1.21 m) in height and males under 5 feet (1.53 m).

Etymology The species name refers to three North Sumatra districts (North, Central, and South Tapanuli) where the new species lives.

Type locality Near Sugi Tonga, Marancar, Tapanuli (Batang Toru) Forest Complex, South Tapanuli District, North Sumatra, Indonesia

Type Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense, Indonesia

Description  Nater, A., Mattle-Greminger, M.P., Nurcahyo, A., Nowak, M. G., de Manuel, M., Desai, T., Groves, C., Pybus, M., Sonay, T.B., Roos, C., Lameira, A.R., Wich, S.A., Askew, J., Davila-Ross, M., Fredriksson, G., de Valles, G., Casals, F., Prado-Martinez, J., Goossens, B., Verschoor, E.J., Warren, K.S., and I. Singleton (2017) Morphometric, behavioral, and genomic evidence for a new Orangutan species.  Current Biology 27: 3487-3498

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