Pongidae - the Great Apes Family Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Pongidae - the Great Apes Family

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In the classification of living things, Pongidae is the family of animals that are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. The members of that family, which are called Pongids, are the gorillas (Gorilla gorilla), the common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), the bonobos (Pan paniscus), and the orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus). An often-used illustration of how closely related we are is the fact that our DNA is so similar (there is only a 2.5% difference in the nucleotide sequence in the DNA of humans and chimps, compared to a 15.8% difference between humans and the new world monkeys, for example).

The pongids are sometimes referred to as the 'great apes' (more because of their size than their accomplishments). The pongids do not have tails, and they are both larger and more intelligent than the gibbons and simangs (family Hylobatidae) and the monkeys. They generally have complex social habits, although the orangutans tend to be rather solitary, territorial creatures who hang about in the trees a lot. The chimps and gorillas spend most of their time on the ground. They move around mostly on their legs, but touching their hands to the ground to keep balance. (They are sometimes called 'knuckle-walkers' for that reason.) Their skeletons are not well-designed for full-time upright walking. The bonobo chimps are known for their particularly licentious sexual behavior, as well as their exceptional intelligence.

The following table shows where Pongids stand in the classification of living things, beginning with the broadest category, which contains all the others, and moving in to the most specific category, Pongidae itself. Each category is one of several members of the one above it; for example, the Class Mammalia is one of many classes in the Phylum Chordata.

Taxonomy (tree of life)
Domain:EucaryaLiving things whose cells have nuclei
Kingdom:AnimaliaThe animals
Phylum:ChordataAnimals that have backbones
Class:MammaliaWarm, furry, milk-producing animals
Order:PrimatesLemurs, monkeys, apes, etc.
Suborder:AnthropoideaSimian primates (all the monkeys, apes, etc.)
Infraorder:CatarriniOld World monkeys, gibbons, apes
Superfamily:HomonoideaGreat apes and humans
Family:PongidaeGreat apes other than humans

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