The apes are the closest relatives we have in the entire animal kingdom. In reality, understanding more about our closest primate cousins may be a thrilling and enlightening experience for us as apes.
You’ve come to the right place if you’ve ever wanted to learn everything there is to know about all the different kinds of apes that live on Earth.
We’ll tell you about the 26 kinds of apes, including the eight kinds of big apes and sixteen kinds of lesser apes, in this article.
What Is An Ape?
We must first establish what an ape is before we can discuss the 26 distinct kinds of apes.
A primate is what an ape is called. Now, monkeys, like baboons and macaques, are considered a type of primate, so that definition might not be very useful.
The lack of a tail and the fact that the majority of apes are rather tall distinguishes them from other primates, such as other monkey types.
We can all species in the Hominoidea superfamily as apes from a scientific standpoint. The lesser apes (gibbons) belong to the Hylobatidae family, while the greater apes (hominids) belong to the Hominidae family.
8 Incredible Types of Great Apes
Great apes are the first eight types of apes that we’ll discuss. The Hominidae family, which includes eight living species in four genera, encompasses all of these species.
Only the continents of Africa and Asia are home to all of the great apes, with the exception of humans. In addition, all great apes are classed as endangered or threatened species, with the exception of humans.
Here are the eight types of great apes you should know about:
1. Genus Pongo
The genus Pongo, which includes all orangutans, is home to the first great apes on our list. The long, orange-colored hair of orangutans makes them stand out among other apes. While they are only present in Southeast Asia and Oceania, they spend more time in the trees than the other great apes.
Only three surviving (living) orangutan species exist today, all of which are considered to be very endangered.
1.1 Bornean Orangutan
The Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) is an orangutan species that lives exclusively on the island of Borneo.
The Bornean orangutan is considered to be the biggest of the three orangutan species. As a result, it is actually the second-largest of the great apes, after the gorilla, and as a general rule, it weighs more than most adult humans.
Orangutans prefer to live in tropical rainforest environments, where they may eat figs, leaves, seeds, honey, flowers, and even eggs. In the wild, they may survive up to 40 years, while in captivity, they may live up to 60 years.
1.2 Sumatran Orangutan
The Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) is a large, critically endangered great ape that can only be found on the northernmost part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
The Sumatran orangutan has considerably more sexual dimorphism than the Bornean orangutan. In this species, the males may grow to be up to twice the size of the females. Sumatran orangutans also have a much larger face than Bornean orangutans, but they are often lighter in weight.
The orangutan of Sumatra prefers to eat mostly fruit and insects in its diet. These monkeys, on the other hand, will eat bird eggs when necessary, like their Bornean cousins. Moreover, in the wild, these super smart apes have been observed digging up termite holes with sticks and breaking open fruits and nuts with rocks.
1.3 Tapanuli Orangutan
The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) is a unique species that may be found only on the northern part of Sumatra’s island. It is the world’s third and final surviving orangutan species. Researchers believed this to be a separate orangutan species until 2017, when it was discovered that it was actually a distinct population of the Bornean orangutan.
Despite this, the Tapanuli orangutan has a smaller face than its Sumatran relatives, and it possesses some of the body build and fur color features of the Sumatran species.
This species is the rarest of the great ape species, with only about 800 individuals remaining in the wild. Habitat destruction and fragmentation are the primary reasons for this, as they affect almost all great apes.
2. Genus Gorilla
The genus Gorilla contains all of the apes that are commonly referred to as gorillas, and it is the largest of the great apes in terms of average weight. These monkeys are only found in central Africa’s tropical woods, and they are primarily ground dwellers.
Since it is thought that we share around 98 percent of our DNA with gorillas, gorillas are one of our nearest cousins. Just two gorilla species survive today, both of which restrict particular regions of Sub-Saharan Africa.
2.1 Eastern Gorilla
The eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei) is the world’s biggest living primate, and is the rarest of the two gorilla subspecies. It only thrives in lowland and mountain environments, and only lives in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In reality, the eastern lowland gorilla and the mountain gorilla are the two recognized subspecies of easter gorillas. The heads of both subspecies are huge, the chests are broad, the snouts are flat, and the arms are unusually long.
Because of habitat destruction, these gorillas have switched to eating mostly fruit and leaves and other foliage. In addition, a single domineering silverback male leads large family groups of about 35 eastern gorillas.
The eastern gorilla, like many other primates, is on the verge of extinction. There are only about 6,000 species left in the wild, according to estimates. Nonetheless, conservation measures appear to be increasing the mountain gorilla subspecies population.
2.2 Western Gorilla
The western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) is the most populous of the gorilla species, and it is found primarily in the swamps and lowlands of west-central Africa. In comparison to their eastern cousins, these gorillas have a lighter color and have greyish-colored fur. They’re also smaller than conventional dogs.
The western lowland gorilla and the Cross River gorilla are the two major subspecies of western gorillas identified by researchers.
With some estimates predicting that there are roughly 90,000 western lowland gorillas in the wild, the western lowland gorilla is by far the most numerous of the two subspecies. In west-central Africa, they prefer high elevations and swamplands.
Cross River gorillas, on the other hand, are the least populous of all gorilla subspecies. Only in the Cross River’s headwaters, near the Nigeria-Cameroon boundary area, can you find the Cross River gorilla. Just about 250 mature individuals are expected to remain in the wild of this subspecies.
3. Genus Pan
The genus Pan contains two living great ape species: the chimpanzee and the bonobo, often known as panins. The chimpanzee and the bonobo are our closest animal cousins, although they are only found in Sub-Saharan Africa, and genetic testing indicates so.
The two members of the genus Pan are the only non-human great apes to be designated as endangered, rather than critically endangered. Here’s what you need to know about it.
3.1 Common Chimpanzee
The chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) is a kind of great ape that dwells in forested parts of tropical Africa. It’s commonly known as the chimp. Although they are covered in thick black hair everywhere except their face, palms, and feet, these apes are similar in size to small adult humans.
The central chimpanzee, western chimpanzee, eastern chimpanzee, and Nigeria-Cameroon chimps are the four subspecies of chimps identified by researchers. A fifth subspecies, the southeastern chimpanzee, has been suggested but hasn’t yet been verified.
One of the most intelligent primate species is chimpanzees, who are well-known for their intelligence. In the wild, they often employ tools for food procurement and other activities.
Yet, since to habitat deterioration, all chimpanzee subspecies are designated as endangered. Other people have tried to keep chimps as pets, but it is against the law in many regions and does not seem safe since they may become aggressive in captivity.
The bonobo (Pan paniscus) is the second of two ape species in the genus Pan and was once thought to be a subspecies of chimpanzee. In reality, following the formation of the Congo River 1.5 million to 2 million years ago, it is thought that the bonobo and chimp split from a single species.
The bonobo is often a bit thinner and smaller than the chimp, despite the fact that they physically appear similar. The bonobo seems to walk on both hind legs and upper limbs, unlike the chimpanzee, which only lives in the trees.
Some researchers believe that there are now between 50,000 and 30,000 bonobos left in the wild, and they have been designated as an endangered species. Deforestation is threatening the habitat of these primates, yet they have long been hunted for bushmeat.
4. Genus Homo
The genus Homo is, of course, the last of the four great ape genera. The scientific name for modern humans (that’s us!) is Homo sapiens, and this genus only has one surviving species.
How do we humans fit in the Great Apes’ classification system? Let’s take a quick look at where we fit in.
4.1 Modern Humans
Of course, this genus contained numerous other species, but only we modern humans are left. Homo neanderthalensis (neanderthals) and Homo erectus are two of the more well-known extinct species in this genus, with Homo erectus being one of the earliest human species to resemble us more than our ape cousins.
Humans (Homo sapiens) are the only great ape that isn’t endangered, which is interesting. The human population is substantially larger than that of any of our closest cousins, with a total population of more than 7.9 billion as of 2021 (and counting!).
Furthermore, since all other great ape species are limited to Asia or Africa, we humans are the only one that lives on more than one continent.
18 Wonderful Types of Lesser Apes
The four genera and eight species of great apes have been discussed at this point. So, you may wonder, what about the lesser apes?
Thankfully, we’ve got the lesser apes covered, too. In reality, the Hylobatidae family, which has four alive genera and eighteen species, is divided into four lesser apes.
Here’s what you need to know about the 18 types of lesser apes, based on that:
1. Genus Hoolock
The genus Hoolock includes three extant primate species, all of which are found in southeastern Asia. They are commonly known as hoolock gibbons. Following the siamang (genus Symphalangus), these monkeys are considered to be the second biggest of all the gibbons. The hoolock gibbons are divided into three species, each of which has its own set of habitat and characteristics.
1.1 Western Hoolock Gibbon
The endangered primate the western hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) dwells in parts of northeastern India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. These monkeys prefer to eat fruits, leaves, and shoots in the mid-level layers of the rainforest canopy.
Moreover, the hoolock gibbon’s complex vocalizations have made it famous in western Nepal. It generally sings in a duet, but on rare occasions, an entire family may join together to build a song with an organized sequence, which is one of the most amazing sights to witness.
1.2 Eastern Hoolock Gibbon
The eastern hoolock gibbon (Hoolock leuconedys) is a big primate that lives in the rainforest canopy and is mostly located in Myanmar’s eastern region, India’s extreme east, and Yunnan’s southwest.
These gibbons consume fruits, invertebrates, eggs, and lichens in addition to being omnivorous. Figs, which may be found throughout their home area, are particularly favorites of theirs.
The eastern hoolock gibbon, like other gibbon species, is endangered because of habitat destruction and degradation. Large monitor lizards and even large eagles have been known to prey on these gibbons, further threatening their population.
1.3 Skywalker Hoolock Gibbon
The Skywalker hoolock gibbon (Hoolock tianxing) is a little-studied gibbon that mainly lives in China’s Yunnan Province and east Myanmar. Because it was initially described in academic literature in January 2017, the species is still poorly understood.
Interestingly, Luke Sykwalker of the Star Wars franchise is the source of the species’ common name, Skywalker. You’re not alone if this name for a gibbon seems unusual to you. The gibbon was named after one of the scientists who originally described it, and he is a big fan of Star Wars. Who knew about it?
2. Genus Hylobates
The genus Hylobates is a group of lesser apes commonly known as the forest walkers. It was formerly recognized to be the sole genus of gibbons in the world. The genus Hylobates, which contains seven species, is the Gibbon genus with the most species. It is closely related to Nomascus.
Because of the species’ presence in southern and southeastern Asia, the genus Hylobates is one of the most widely distributed among gibbon genera. Additionally, because of the white fur rings around their faces, these gibbons can be easily distinguished from each other.
2.1 Lar Gibbon
One of the most extensively studied gibbons in the world is the lar gibbon (Hylobates lar), also known as the white-handed gibbon. The habitat of this primate extends from southern China to Sumatra Island, and it may be found across Southeast Asia.
Lar gibbons have a wide variety of fur colors, ranging from nearly white to nearly completely black. True brachiators, or those that mostly swing off of tree branches to propel themselves, are also considered gibbons.
Although lar gibbons are one of the most frequent gibbon species in captivity, they are considered to be vulnerable in the wild. They’re often captured for bushmeat, and habitat destruction is driving them crazy.
2.2 Bornean White-Bearded Gibbon
The Bornean white-bearded gibbon (Hylobates albibarbis) is a tiny gibbon that can only be found on the island of Borneo and is appropriately named. This gibbon has a white beard on its face, as the name implies, and little is understood about this largely isolated primate species.
The Bornean white-bearded gibbon was once thought to be a subspecies of the agile gibbon, but genetic research now indicates that it should be regarded as a distinct species.
2.3 Müller’s Gibbon
The Müller’s gibbon (Hylobates muelleri) is a rare and endangered primate that lives exclusively on the island of Borneo. It is one of the relatively few gibbon species that does not have a extensive range of fur colors. In terms of its coloration, this gibbon has a grey or brown colored fur and exhibits no sexual dimorphism.
While the species is protected in many national parks, its habitat remains under threat. Although the Müller’s gibbon primarily lives in the northern half of the island, it also slightly overlaps in territory with the Bornean white-bearded gibbon.
2.4 Silvery Gibbon
The silvery gibbon (Hylobates moloch) is a little gibbon that only lives on the Indonesian island of Java. It’s sometimes known as the Javan gibbon. Although there are fewer than 2,500 adults left in the wild, it prefers to live in relatively high elevation rainforests.
The majority of the gibbons’ fur is silvery to blueish-grey in color, as their name implies. They have limited ranges and prefer to reside in pairs, with only one child at a time.
The IUCN classifies the silvery gibbon as one of the world’s most endangered gibbon species, citing both habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade. It is unclear if the species will be able to survive despite a variety of breeding programs and conservation efforts around the world.
2.5 Agile Gibbon
It has a complete white brow and is dark to reddish brown in coloration. In the rainforest where they prefer to dwell, the males have white fur tufts on their cheeks, which aids them to stand out.
It has a full white brow and a jet-black to red-brown coloration. In the rainforest where they prefer to dwell, the males have white fur tufts on their cheeks that help them stand out.
The illegal pet trade is currently jeopardizing the survival of the agile gibbon. They’re also sought after for bushmeat, and due to local deforestation, they’re in danger of disappearing.
2.6 Pileated Gibbon
The pileated gibbon (Hylobates pileatus) is an endangered primate known for its shaggy hair and makes a home exclusively in Cambodia’s, Laos’, and Thailand’s rainforests. In addition, male pileated gibbons have totally black fur, whereas female pileated gibbons have a white-grey coloration that is unusual among primates.
Lifelong mating pairs of pileated gibbons live in the rainforest, and they are well-known for forming them. These animals are also recognized for producing small noises when they feel threatened, and they will aggressively guard their own area from other mating teams and individuals.
2.7 Kloss’s Gibbon
The Kloss’ gibbon (Hylobates klossii) or Mentawai gibbon is only found on the Mentawai Islands, which are situated west of Sumatra. It is one of the most poorly understood gibbon species.
Because of its mainly black fur, the Kloss’ gibbon looks a lot like the siamang. The Kloss’ gibbon, on the other hand, is typically substantially smaller than the siamang’s and lacks the characteristic neck pouch.
The Kloss gibbon, like other gibbons, signs. Even though they do not sign in duets like other gibbons, this species of gibbon is believed to have one of the most beautiful vocalizations.
3. Genus Symphalangus
The siamang is the only species of the genus Symphalangus, which is one of the lesser ape genera.
Siamangs are technically a kind of gibbon, however they have numerous differences that distinguish them from other gibbons and warrant their being classified in a distinct genus. Since it may be found in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, the siamang has one of the greatest variety of all gibbons. Here are the facts you should know.
The siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) is a giant gibbon that dwells in Southeast Asia’s rainforests.
The siamang is a gibbon species, as we previously indicated, however it stands out from its other relatives due to the fact that each foot has two joined toes. Furthermore, the siamang has a gular sac (or throat pouch) that can be pumped up to a huge size to aid with calls and other noises.
The primate is listed as endangered by the IUCN, despite the fact that the exact number of siamangs in the world is unknown. The pet trade is particularly harmful to the species, while large-scale deforestation for the palm oil industry has resulted in significant habitat loss throughout its range.
4. Genus Nomascus
The genus Nomascus is a group of seven gibbon species that make up the fourth and final genus of lesser apes. Until quite recently, all of these species were considered to be within the genus Hylobates, however new research shows that they are not as closely linked as previously thought.
In addition, the genus Nomascus contains all of the gibbon species, which can be found in southern China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Other types of gibbons, which are mostly found to the southwest, are distinguished from these species by this.
The seven species in this genus are as follows:
4.1 Northern Buffed-Cheeked Gibbon
The northern buffed-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus annamensis) is a lesser ape that lives in the tropical woods of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It has just been discovered as a new species. Because it was first mentioned in scientific literature in 2010, little is known about this primate.
These gibbons, on the other hand, are known to resemble yellow-cheeked gibbons in appearance, with golden-orange fur tufts on their cheeks. To fully grasp this fascinating species, further study is required.
4.2 Black Crested Gibbon
In northern Vietnam, as well as sections of southeastern China and Laos, the black crested gibbon (Nomascus concolor) is a critically endangered primate.
The black crested gibbon has sexual dichromatism, which is a condition in which males and femen are distinct colors, like many other gibbon species. Males are almost completely dark, while females have a buff to golden coloration.
The black crested gibbon is still a source of contention, since it is thought that this primate exists in at least four subspecies. Regardless, due to habitat destruction and deforestation, this species’ population is thought to be fewer than 2,000 individuals in the wild.
4.3 Eastern Black Crested Gibbon
The eastern black crested gibbon (Nomascus nasutus) is one of the world’s rarest primates, having been thought to be extinct in the wild. Indeed, until a group of scientists saw them in northern Vietnam in the early 2000s, there wasn’t a single verified report of the species.
The eastern black crested gibbon was identified as a unique species based on genetic sequencing, despite being taxonomically related to other black crested gibbons.
The species’ prospects of survival, however, are extremely poor due to ongoing habitat destruction since there are less than 40 individuals of this species left in the wild as of the early 2000s.
4.4 Hainan Black Crested Gibbon
The Hainan black crested gibbon (Nomascus hainanus) is a critically endangered gibbon that is on the verge of extinction. It can only be found on Hainan Island in southern China.
While scientists have known about the species since the late nineteenth century, it wasn’t recognized to be a distinct species until recently.
Unfortunately, from approximately 2,000 individuals in the 1950s to roughly 20 persons as of 2014, the species’ population has declined considerably over time. Indeed, there are few verified photographs of this gibbon because it is so rare. Illegal pulp paper plantations and logging are responsible for a large portion of the species’ decline.
4.5 Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon
The northern white-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) is a tiny gibbon that may be found in northern Laos and northern Vietnam, with a set of bright white fur tufts on its cheeks (males only).
This gibbon was thought to be a different spice until recently, since it is closely connected to the southern white-cheeked gibbon. The genome of the species was sequenced in 2011, providing confirmation that it is a separate kind of ape.
Just around 450 northern white-cheeked gibbons are left in the wild, with the majority of them living at high elevations. They also create a intricately constructed song with male and female voices that includes calls and responses.
4.6 Southern White-Cheeked Gibbon
The southern white-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus siki) is an endangered primate that lives primarily in central Vietnam and Laos. It is a close relative of the northern white-cheeked gibbon.
These gibbons have sexual dimorphism, with males being entirely black and females being largely brown, much like their northern cousin. The males’ names are derived from their white fur tufts, which are particularly prominent on each cheek.
While the trees are where these gibbons prefer to hang out and eat fruit, human encroachment and logging have destroyed much of their habitat in recent years. In much of its range, the species is actually protected by law, but the illegal pet trade makes enforcement of these rules difficult.
4.7 Yellow-Cheeked Gibbon
The yellow-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus gabriellae) is a poorly understood primate species that lives in eastern Vietnam, central Laos, and Cambodia. It is the last, but certainly not least, of the gibbons. Its Latin name comes from Gabrielle Maud Vassal, a British naturalist who originally identified it, and its common name comes from the golden fur color seen on mature males of this species.
Although there are approximately 1,000 yellow-cheeked gibbons in Cambodia’s Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, the species is designated as endangered. To help save the species from extinction, there are a number of breeding, conservation, and rehabilitation programs for this gibbon.
How Apes Are Classified
Since the word “ape” is a common term rather than a scientific one, the categorization of apes is rather complex.
All apes belong to the kingdom Animalia, phylum Chordata, class Mammalia, and order Primates, as a result of this. Apes are mammals and, as a result, primates that have spinal cords.
Things get a little more difficult beneath the order Primates.
The Strepsirhini and Haplorhini living suborders of primates are separated. Lemurs and lorises are tiny, highly arboreal primates that survive in regions of sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. They belong to the Strepsirrhini suborder. The tarsiers and simians are currently classified as members of the Haplorhini suborder.
Tarsiers are a kind of small, tree-dwelling primate that currently exists solely in Southeast Asia and belongs to the infraorder Tarsiiformes. The New World monkeys, Old World monkeys, and apes are all members of the infraorder Simiiformes, which includes simians.
Platyrrhini (New World monkeys) and Catarrhini (Old World monkeys and apes) are two parvorders within the infraorder Simiiformes. Surprisingly, the form of a monkey’s nose and nostrils is the defining feature between New World and Old World monkeys/apes.
Old World monkeys and apes make up the parvorder Catarrhini. The apes are typically regarded to be tailless and bigger than their Old World monkey counterparts, despite the fact that they are closely related. The superfamily Hominoidea includes all apes, whereas the Cercopithecoidea includes Old World monkeys.
The great apes (family Hominidae) and the lesser apes (Hylobatidae) are finally divided into two extant families within the Hominoidea superfamily.
While the species’ taxonomy is based on genetic analysis, the great apes are bigger and more social than the lesser apes. Four extant great ape genera and eight extant species currently exist.
The family Hylobatidae, on the other hand, includes all of the lesser apes and is commonly referred to as gibbons. Gibbons are a group of arboreal, smaller-than-great ape species that number in the hundreds. There are roughly four genera and sixteen species.
To some of your most often asked questions about apes, here are our answers:
Is An Ape A Type of Monkey?
This depends on who you ask, but apes and monkeys are generally considered to be two different animals. The infraorder Simiiformes includes both apes and monkeys, as well as New World Monkeys and Old World anthropoids. Monkeys and the 26 species considered as apes are found in the Old World anthropoids.
As a result, monkeys from both the New World and Old World are often referred to by the term “monkey.” Apes and monkeys, on the other hand, are closely related, so this definition excludes them.
What Is The Difference Between Great Apes And Lesser Apes?
The superfamily of great and lesser apes is the same. The term “great apes,” on the other hand, is used to describe great primates like the orangutans, gorillas, and bonobos in the Hominidae family. Gibbons, who are generally smaller and spend the majority of their lives in the trees, are referred to as “lesser apes.”
Are Humans And Apes Related?
Apes and humans are very closely related. Humans belong to the Hominidae family of non-human apes, including chimpanzees and orangutans, and are therefore apes.