Gibbon
Overview
Gibbons are ape
Ape
Apes are Old World anthropoid mammals, more specifically a clade of tailless catarrhine primates, belonging to the biological superfamily Hominoidea. The apes are native to Africa and South-east Asia, although in relatively recent times humans have spread all over the world...

s in the family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 Hylobatidae (icon). The family is divided into four genera
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 based on their diploid chromosome
Chromosome
A chromosome is an organized structure of DNA and protein found in cells. It is a single piece of coiled DNA containing many genes, regulatory elements and other nucleotide sequences. Chromosomes also contain DNA-bound proteins, which serve to package the DNA and control its functions.Chromosomes...

 number: Hylobates
Hylobates
The genus Hylobates is one of the four genera of gibbons. It was once considered the only genus, but recently its subgenera have been elevated to the genus level. Hylobates remains the most speciose and widespread of gibbon genera, ranging from southern China to western and central Java...

(44), Hoolock (38), Nomascus
Nomascus
Nomascus is the second most speciose genus of gibbons . Originally this genus was a subgenus of Hylobates, and all individuals were considered one species, Hylobates concolor. Species within Nomascus are characterized by 52 chromosomes...

(52), and Symphalangus (50). The extinct Bunopithecus sericus
Bunopithecus sericus
Bunopithecus sericus is an extinct gibbon or gibbon-like primate. Its remains were first discovered in Sichuan, China, in strata from the Middle Pleistocene, but have since been found all over Southern Europe and Asia...

is a gibbon or gibbon-like ape which, until recently, was thought to be closely related to the hoolock gibbons. Gibbons occur in tropical and subtropical rainforests from northeast India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 to Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

 and north to southern China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, including the islands of Sumatra
Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

, Borneo
Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

 and Java.

Also called the lesser apes, gibbons differ from great apes (chimpanzee
Chimpanzee
Chimpanzee, sometimes colloquially chimp, is the common name for the two extant species of ape in the genus Pan. The Congo River forms the boundary between the native habitat of the two species:...

s, bonobo
Bonobo
The bonobo , Pan paniscus, previously called the pygmy chimpanzee and less often, the dwarf or gracile chimpanzee, is a great ape and one of the two species making up the genus Pan. The other species in genus Pan is Pan troglodytes, or the common chimpanzee...

s, gorilla
Gorilla
Gorillas are the largest extant species of primates. They are ground-dwelling, predominantly herbivorous apes that inhabit the forests of central Africa. Gorillas are divided into two species and either four or five subspecies...

s, orangutan
Orangutan
Orangutans are the only exclusively Asian genus of extant great ape. The largest living arboreal animals, they have proportionally longer arms than the other, more terrestrial, great apes. They are among the most intelligent primates and use a variety of sophisticated tools, also making sleeping...

s and human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

s) in being smaller, exhibiting low sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism is a phenotypic difference between males and females of the same species. Examples of such differences include differences in morphology, ornamentation, and behavior.-Examples:-Ornamentation / coloration:...

, in not making nests, and in certain anatomical details in which they superficially more closely resemble monkey
Monkey
A monkey is a primate, either an Old World monkey or a New World monkey. There are about 260 known living species of monkey. Many are arboreal, although there are species that live primarily on the ground, such as baboons. Monkeys are generally considered to be intelligent. Unlike apes, monkeys...

s than great apes do.
Encyclopedia
Gibbons are ape
Ape
Apes are Old World anthropoid mammals, more specifically a clade of tailless catarrhine primates, belonging to the biological superfamily Hominoidea. The apes are native to Africa and South-east Asia, although in relatively recent times humans have spread all over the world...

s in the family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 Hylobatidae (icon). The family is divided into four genera
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 based on their diploid chromosome
Chromosome
A chromosome is an organized structure of DNA and protein found in cells. It is a single piece of coiled DNA containing many genes, regulatory elements and other nucleotide sequences. Chromosomes also contain DNA-bound proteins, which serve to package the DNA and control its functions.Chromosomes...

 number: Hylobates
Hylobates
The genus Hylobates is one of the four genera of gibbons. It was once considered the only genus, but recently its subgenera have been elevated to the genus level. Hylobates remains the most speciose and widespread of gibbon genera, ranging from southern China to western and central Java...

(44), Hoolock (38), Nomascus
Nomascus
Nomascus is the second most speciose genus of gibbons . Originally this genus was a subgenus of Hylobates, and all individuals were considered one species, Hylobates concolor. Species within Nomascus are characterized by 52 chromosomes...

(52), and Symphalangus (50). The extinct Bunopithecus sericus
Bunopithecus sericus
Bunopithecus sericus is an extinct gibbon or gibbon-like primate. Its remains were first discovered in Sichuan, China, in strata from the Middle Pleistocene, but have since been found all over Southern Europe and Asia...

is a gibbon or gibbon-like ape which, until recently, was thought to be closely related to the hoolock gibbons. Gibbons occur in tropical and subtropical rainforests from northeast India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 to Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

 and north to southern China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, including the islands of Sumatra
Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

, Borneo
Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

 and Java.

Also called the lesser apes, gibbons differ from great apes (chimpanzee
Chimpanzee
Chimpanzee, sometimes colloquially chimp, is the common name for the two extant species of ape in the genus Pan. The Congo River forms the boundary between the native habitat of the two species:...

s, bonobo
Bonobo
The bonobo , Pan paniscus, previously called the pygmy chimpanzee and less often, the dwarf or gracile chimpanzee, is a great ape and one of the two species making up the genus Pan. The other species in genus Pan is Pan troglodytes, or the common chimpanzee...

s, gorilla
Gorilla
Gorillas are the largest extant species of primates. They are ground-dwelling, predominantly herbivorous apes that inhabit the forests of central Africa. Gorillas are divided into two species and either four or five subspecies...

s, orangutan
Orangutan
Orangutans are the only exclusively Asian genus of extant great ape. The largest living arboreal animals, they have proportionally longer arms than the other, more terrestrial, great apes. They are among the most intelligent primates and use a variety of sophisticated tools, also making sleeping...

s and human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

s) in being smaller, exhibiting low sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism is a phenotypic difference between males and females of the same species. Examples of such differences include differences in morphology, ornamentation, and behavior.-Examples:-Ornamentation / coloration:...

, in not making nests, and in certain anatomical details in which they superficially more closely resemble monkey
Monkey
A monkey is a primate, either an Old World monkey or a New World monkey. There are about 260 known living species of monkey. Many are arboreal, although there are species that live primarily on the ground, such as baboons. Monkeys are generally considered to be intelligent. Unlike apes, monkeys...

s than great apes do. Gibbons also display pair-bonding
Pair bond
In biology, a pair bond is the strong affinity that develops in some species between the males and females in a pair, potentially leading to breeding. Pair-bonding is a term coined in the 1940s that is frequently used in sociobiology and evolutionary psychology circles...

, unlike most of the great apes. Gibbons are masters of their primary mode of locomotion, brachiation
Brachiation
Brachiation is a form of arboreal locomotion in which primates swing from tree limb to tree limb using only their arms.- Brachiators :...

, swinging from branch to branch for distances of up to 15 m (49.2 ft), at speeds as high as 56 km/h (34.8 mph). They can also make leaps of up to 8 m (26.2 ft), and walk bipedally with their arms raised for balance. They are the fastest and most agile of all tree-dwelling, non-flying mammals.

Depending on species and gender, gibbons' fur coloration varies from dark to light brown shades, and anywhere in between black and white. It is rare to see a completely white gibbon.

Gibbon species include the siamang
Siamang
The siamang is a tailless, arboreal, black-furred gibbon native to the forests of Malaysia, Thailand, and Sumatra. The largest of the lesser apes, the siamang can be twice the size of other gibbons, reaching 1 m in height, and weighing up to 14 kg...

, the white-handed or lar gibbon
Lar Gibbon
The lar gibbon , also known as the white-handed gibbon, is a primate in the Hylobatidae or gibbon family. It is one of the better-known gibbons and is often seen in zoos.-Range:...

, and the hoolock gibbon
Hoolock gibbon
The hoolock gibbons , also known as hoolocks, are two primate species from the family of the gibbons .Hoolocks are the second largest of the gibbons, after the Siamang. They reach a size of 60 to 90 cm and weigh 6 to 9 kg...

s. The siamang, which is the largest of the sixteen species, is distinguished by having two fingers on each foot stuck together, hence the generic and species names Symphalangus and syndactylus.

Anatomy

One unique aspect of gibbon physiology is that the wrist is composed of a ball and socket joint
Ball and socket joint
A ball and socket joint is a joint in which the distal bone is capable of motion around an indefinite number of axes, which have one common center...

, allowing for biaxial movement. This greatly reduces the amount of energy needed in the upper arm and torso, while also reducing stress on the shoulder joint. Sometimes when a gibbon is swinging, their wrist will naturally dislocate until the gibbon finishes its swing. Gibbons also have long hands and feet, with a deep cleft between the first and second digits of their hands. Their fur is usually black, gray, or brownish, often with white markings on hands, feet, and face. The male gibbon will sometimes end up with some dark patches in the white to show it is a suitable choice for mating. Some species have an enlarged throat sac, which inflates and serves as a resonating chamber when the animals call. This structure is enormous in a few species, equaling the size of the animal's head.

Gibbon skulls and teeth resemble those of the great apes, and their noses are similar to those of all catarrhine primates. The dental formula is

Behavior

Gibbons are social animals. They are strongly territorial, and defend their boundaries with vigorous visual and vocal displays. The vocal element, which can often be heard for distances of up to 1 km, consists of a duet between a mated pair, their young sometimes joining in. In most species males, and in some also females, sing solos that attract mates as well as advertise their territory. If a male and female like one another's song they will find the other gibbon and do a short mating dance followed by a vigorous mating ritual that lasts three days and they will mate about five hundred times in this time period. The songs can make them an easy find for poachers who engage in the illegal wildlife trade and in sales of body parts for use in traditional medicine. The song can be used to identify not only which species of gibbon is singing but the area it is from.

The gibbons' ball-and-socket joints allow them unmatched speed and accuracy when swinging through trees. Nonetheless, their mode of transportation can lead to hazards when a branch breaks or a hand slips, and researchers estimate that the majority of gibbons suffer bone fractures one or more times during their lifetimes.

Status

Most species are threatened or most endangered, most importantly from degradation or loss of their forest habitat.

Classification

  • Family Hylobatidae: gibbons
    • Genus Hylobates
      Hylobates
      The genus Hylobates is one of the four genera of gibbons. It was once considered the only genus, but recently its subgenera have been elevated to the genus level. Hylobates remains the most speciose and widespread of gibbon genera, ranging from southern China to western and central Java...

      : dwarf gibbons
      • Lar gibbon
        Lar Gibbon
        The lar gibbon , also known as the white-handed gibbon, is a primate in the Hylobatidae or gibbon family. It is one of the better-known gibbons and is often seen in zoos.-Range:...

         or white-handed gibbon, Hylobates lar
        • Malaysian lar gibbon, Hylobates lar lar
        • Carpenter's lar gibbon, Hylobates lar carpenteri
        • Central lar gibbon, Hylobates lar entelloides
        • Sumatran lar gibbon
          Sumatran Lar Gibbon
          The Sumatran lar gibbon , also known as the Sumatran white-handed gibbon, is a subspecies of the lar gibbon, a primate in the Hylobatidae or gibbon family...

          , Hylobates lar vestitus
        • Yunnan lar gibbon
          Yunnan Lar Gibbon
          The Yunnan lar gibbon , also known as the Yunnan white-handed gibbon, is a subspecies of the lar Gibbon, a primate in the Hylobatidae or gibbon family. This Chinese subspecies is thought to be extinct.-Taxonomy:...

          , Hylobates lar yunnanensis
      • Bornean white-bearded gibbon
        Bornean white-bearded gibbon
        The Bornean white-bearded Gibbon, , also known as the Bornean agile Gibbon or Southern Gibbon, is an endangered species of gibbon endemic to southern Borneo, between the Kapuas and Barito rivers....

        , Hylobates albibarbis
      • Agile gibbon
        Agile Gibbon
        The agile gibbon , also known as the black-handed gibbon, is an Old World primate in the Hylobatidae or gibbon family, a group also collectively referred to as the "lesser apes"...

         or black-handed gibbon, Hylobates agilis
      • Müller's Bornean gibbon
        Müller's Bornean Gibbon
        Müller's Bornean gibbon , also known as the grey gibbon, is a primate in the Hylobatidae or gibbon family.Unlike other gibbon species, Müller's Bornean gibbon does not show sexual dimorphism in its fur coloration. Its fur is grey or brown colored with a ring of bright fur around its face. On the...

        , Hylobates muelleri
        • Müller's gray gibbon, Hylobates muelleri muelleri
        • Abbott's gray gibbon, Hylobates muelleri abbotti
        • Northern gray gibbon, Hylobates muelleri funereus
      • Silvery gibbon
        Silvery Gibbon
        The silvery gibbon is a primate in the Hylobatidae or gibbon family. Its coat is bluish-grey in colour, with a dark grey or black cap. Like all gibbons, Silvery Gibbons lack external tails, have dorsally-placed scapula and reduced flexibility in the lumbar region. They have long, curved fingers...

        , Hylobates moloch
        • Western silvery gibbon or western Javan gibbon, Hylobates moloch moloch
        • Eastern silvery gibbon or central Javan gibbon, Hylobates moloch pongoalsoni
      • Pileated gibbon
        Pileated Gibbon
        The pileated gibbon is a primate in the Hylobatidae or gibbon family.The pileated gibbon has sexual dimorphism in fur coloration: males have a purely black fur, while the females have a white-grey colored fur with only the belly and head black...

         or capped gibbon, Hylobates pileatus
      • Kloss's gibbon
        Kloss's Gibbon
        Kloss's gibbon , also known as the Mentawai gibbon or the Bilou, is a primate in the Hylobatidae or gibbon family. It resembles the Siamang with its black fur, but is considerably smaller and lacks the Siamang's distinctive throat pouch. Kloss's gibbon reaches a size 44 to 63 cm and weigh at most 6...

         or Mentawai gibbon or bilou, Hylobates klossii
    • Genus Hoolock
      Hoolock gibbon
      The hoolock gibbons , also known as hoolocks, are two primate species from the family of the gibbons .Hoolocks are the second largest of the gibbons, after the Siamang. They reach a size of 60 to 90 cm and weigh 6 to 9 kg...

      • Western hoolock gibbon
        Western Hoolock Gibbon
        The western hoolock gibbon is a primate from the Hylobatidae family. The species is found in Assam, Bangladesh and in Myanmar west of the Chindwin River.-Classification:...

        , Hoolock hoolock
      • Eastern hoolock gibbon
        Eastern Hoolock Gibbon
        The eastern hoolock gibbon is a primate from the Hylobatidae family. The species is found in extreme eastern corner of Assam and parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Myanmar east of the Chindwin River, and in south west Yunnan of China....

        , Hoolock leuconedys
    • Genus Symphalangus
      • Siamang
        Siamang
        The siamang is a tailless, arboreal, black-furred gibbon native to the forests of Malaysia, Thailand, and Sumatra. The largest of the lesser apes, the siamang can be twice the size of other gibbons, reaching 1 m in height, and weighing up to 14 kg...

        , Symphalangus syndactylus
    • Genus Nomascus
      Nomascus
      Nomascus is the second most speciose genus of gibbons . Originally this genus was a subgenus of Hylobates, and all individuals were considered one species, Hylobates concolor. Species within Nomascus are characterized by 52 chromosomes...

      : crested gibbons
      • Northern buffed-cheeked gibbon
        Northern buffed-cheeked gibbon
        The northern buffed-cheeked gibbon is a newly discovered species of crested gibbon which is found in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Its habitat is in the rainforests of these countries.-Description:...

        , Nomascus annamensis
      • Concolor or black crested gibbon, Nomascus concolor
        • Nomascus concolor concolor
        • Nomascus concolor lu
        • Nomascus concolor jingdongensis
        • Nomascus concolor furvogaster
      • Eastern black crested gibbon
        Eastern Black Crested Gibbon
        The eastern black crested gibbon is a species of gibbon that was once widespread in China and Vietnam. There are two subspecies....

        , Nomascus nasutus
        • Cao Vit black crested gibbon, Nomascus nasutus nasutus
        • Hainan black crested gibbon, Nomascus nasutus hainanus
      • Northern white-cheeked gibbon, Nomascus leucogenys
      • Southern white-cheeked gibbon
        Southern White-cheeked Gibbon
        The southern white-cheeked gibbon is a species of gibbon native to Vietnam and Laos. It is closely related to the northern white-cheeked gibbon and the yellow-cheeked gibbon ; it has previously been identified as a subspecies of each of these, and may potentially be a hybrid of the two rather...

        , Nomascus siki
      • Yellow-cheeked gibbon
        Yellow-cheeked Gibbon
        The yellow-cheeked gibbon , also called the yellow-cheeked crested gibbon, the golden-cheeked crested gibbon or the buffed-cheeked gibbon, is a species of gibbon native to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia....

        , Nomascus gabriellae

Evolution

The dating of the evolution of these genera has been difficult. The best current estimates place Nomascus diverging from the other genera at ~8 million years ago (Mya); Symphalangus and Hylobates diverging at 7 Mya. At the species level Hylobates pileatus diverged from Hylobates lar and Hylobates agilis at 3.9 Mya; and Hylobates lar and Hylobates agilis separated at 3.3 Mya.

Hybrids

Many gibbons are hard to identify based on fur coloration and are identified either by song or genetics. These morphological ambiguities have led to hybrids in zoos. Zoos often receive gibbons of unknown origin and therefore rely on morphological variation or labels that are impossible to verify to assign species and subspecies names, so it is common for separate species of gibbons to be misidentified and housed together. Interspecific hybrids, hybrids within a genus, also occur in wild gibbons where the ranges overlap.

In traditional Chinese culture

The sinologist Robert van Gulik
Robert van Gulik
Robert Hans van Gulik was a highly educated orientalist, diplomat, musician , and writer, best known for the Judge Dee mysteries, the protagonist of which he borrowed from the 18th-century Chinese detective novel Dee Goong An.-Life:Robert van Gulik was the son of a medical officer in the Dutch...

 concluded that gibbons were widespread in Central and Southern China until at least the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

, and furthermore, based on an analysis of references to primates in Chinese literature and their portrayal in Chinese paintings, that the Chinese word yuán (猿) referred specifically to gibbons until they were extirpated throughout most of the country due to habitat destruction
Habitat destruction
Habitat destruction is the process in which natural habitat is rendered functionally unable to support the species present. In this process, the organisms that previously used the site are displaced or destroyed, reducing biodiversity. Habitat destruction by human activity mainly for the purpose of...

 (circa 14th century). In modern usage, however, yuán is a generic word for ape. Early Chinese writers viewed the "noble" gibbons, gracefully moving high in the treetops, as the "gentlemen" (jūnzǐ, 君子) of the forests, in contrast to the greedy macaques, attracted by human food. The Taoists
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

 ascribed occult properties to gibbons, believing them to be able to live a several hundred years and to turn into humans.

Gibbon figurines as old as from the 3-4th century BCE (the Zhou Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

) have been found in China. Later on, gibbons became a popular object for Chinese painters, especially during the Song Dynasty and early Yuan Dynasty
Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty , or Great Yuan Empire was a ruling dynasty founded by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who ruled most of present-day China, all of modern Mongolia and its surrounding areas, lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. It is considered both as a division of the Mongol Empire and as an...

, when Yì Yuánjí
Yi Yuanji
Yi Yuanji was a Northern Song Dynasty painter, famous for his realistic paintings of animals. According to Robert van Gulik, Yi Yuanji's paintings of gibbons were particularly celebrated....

 and Mùqī Fǎcháng
Muqi Fachang
Muqi Fachang was a Chinese Zen Buddhist monk and renowned painter who lived in the 13th century, around the end of the Southern Song dynasty. His surname is thought to be Xue; Muqi was a hao or pseudonym, and Fachang a monastic name. Muqi was perhaps from the city of Kaifeng in Hunan Province....

 excelled in painting these apes. From Chinese cultural influence, the Zen
Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

 motif of the "gibbon grasping at the reflection of the moon in the water" became popular in Japanese art
Japanese art
Japanese art covers a wide range of art styles and media, including ancient pottery, sculpture in wood and bronze, ink painting on silk and paper and more recently manga, cartoon, along with a myriad of other types of works of art...

as well, even though gibbons have never occurred naturally in Japan.

External links

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