A team of researchers stumbled upon a group of odd-looking orangutans on the island of Sumatra, in Indonesia. After taking a closer look at these specimens, they identified them as belonging to an entirely new species. However, the success of the discovery is overshadowed by the imminent danger in which these specimens live, as they might go extinct anytime.
The orangutans are already threatened with extinction
Researchers discovered less than 800 orangutans with frizzy hair, living in an extremely fragmented habitat. Researchers couldn’t include them in any existent species, so they called their new discovery Pongo tapanuliensis. Their low numbers, as well as the conditions they live in, are a great threat for the animals, so the species is already the most endangered among other orangutans.
The rapidly evolving development of the area puts the forest in great danger. This means that the habitat of the orangutans is quickly diminishing, making the species even more vulnerable. The animals live in three isolated patches of forest, which aren’t included in any protected areas. Now, researchers want to take action before it’s too late.
“For the species to [survive] into the future, those three fragments need to be reconnected via forest corridors,” says Matthew Novak, one of the authors of the study.
The new species has a few traits which makes it stand out among other orangutans
This is the first time in 90 years when scientists stumble upon a new species of great ape. Researchers reached their conclusion after looking at the skeleton of a male specimen which got killed by villagers. This way, they could take a look at its genes, and at the evolution of the behavior and habitat of the individuals since 2005.
Their aspect is significantly different from other orangutans. What stands out is their frizzy hair, and the size of their head, which is significantly smaller. Also, the males issue long-distance calls, which clearly makes them unique among other great apes. The study on the new creatures has been published in the journal Current Biology.
Image Source: Max Pixel