Tags: orangutan | sumatra | new | species

Orangutan in Sumatra is New Species, Most Endangered

Image: Orangutan in Sumatra is New Species, Most Endangered

(Oscar Espinosa Villegas/Dreamstime)

By    |   Friday, 03 November 2017 11:20 AM

A new orangutan species has been found living in Sumatra, occupying an isolation location in the northern portion of the island.

The new Tapanuli orangutans, or Pongo tapanuliensis, were initially discovered by Australian National University researchers in 1997 in Batang Toru, a region within the three Tapanuli districts in North Sumatra, the Daily Mail reported.

A team led by experts at the University of Zurich in Switzerland has now established that those orangutans are a distinct third species from the two established species – the Bornean and the Sumatran orangutans, the Daily Mail noted.

A statement from the University of Zurich said scientists were able to detail the differences between the new Tapanuli orangutan population and the others from skeletal material of an adult male orangutan killed in 2013.

"We were quite surprised that the skull was quite different in some characteristics from anything we had seen before," Matt Nowak, of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, said in the university statement.

Using computer modeling to reconstruct the history of the Tapanuli population allowed Zurich scientists to calculate that the population possibly isolated itself from all other Sumatran populations of orangutans for at least 10,000 to 20,000 years, the university statement said.

"When we realized that the Tapanuli orangutans were morphologically different from all other orangutans, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place," said Michael Krützen, professor of evolutionary anthropology and genomics at the University of Zurich.

The university statement said that a previous study combined with the new genome sequencing of 37 orangutans showed a picture that was consistent with the morphological findings.

"It is very exciting to discover a new great ape species in the 21st century," Krützen said in the University of Zurich statement. "All conservation efforts must focus on protecting the species' environment."

Zurich researchers said the new species also has become one of the most endangered as well, with roughly about 800 remaining in the upland forest region of North Sumatra.

"I hope that this new status will foster conservation efforts to make sure that the population doesn't go extinct shortly after being described," Marc Ancrenaz, co-director of the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project, said, according to The Atlantic. "It's definitely good news in these times where conservation is more often than not gloom and doom."

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A new orangutan species has been found living in Sumatra, occupying an isolation location in the northern portion of the island.
orangutan, sumatra, new, species
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2017-20-03
Friday, 03 November 2017 11:20 AM
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