Endangered population represents oldest surviving red ape lineage
Orangutans living in forested foothills on the Indonesian island of Sumatra represent a previously unknown species, researchers say.
Skeletal and genetic evidence puts these apes on a separate evolutionary trajectory from other orangutans in Sumatra (Pongo abelii) and Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), says a team led by evolutionary anthropologist Michael Krützen of the University of Zurich. The researchers named the new species Pongo tapanuliensis, or the Tapanuli orangutan. Krützen’s team reports its findings online November 2 in Current Biology.
The name P. tapanuliensis refers to three north Sumatran districts — North, Central and South Tapanuli — where no more than 800 of these orangutans inhabit several forested areas. Tapanuli orangutans live on the brink of extinction due to road construction, illegal forest clearing