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Apes and humans differ from all of the other primates in that they lack external tails.The apes and humans are members of the same superfamily, the Hominoidea.  Subsequently, apes are referred to as Old World anthropoid mammals, more specifically a clade of tailless catarrhine primates native to Africa and South-east Asia. Apes, are the largest living arboreal traditionally forest dwellers, although chimpanzees may range into savanna, and the extinct australopithecines were likely also savanna inhabitants, Humans inhabit almost every terrestrial habitat.

Until the last few years, humans were separated into their own family within this superfamily because it was believed that we are significantly different from the apes.  However, recent genetic studies and discoveries from the fossil record have made it clear that some of the apes are more similar to humans than previously believed.

Apes and humans do not have external tails, they do have internal remnants of them at the lower end of their vertebral columns.  These consist of the sacrum and the coccyx bones


Some or all hominoids are also called “apes“. However, the term “ape” is used in several different senses. It has been used as a synonym for “monkey” or for any tailless primate with a humanlike appearance.Thus the Barbary macaque, a kind of monkey, is popularly called the “Barbary ape” to indicate its lack of a tail.

The great apes include orangutans, chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, humans and bonobos. These great apes are included under the family Hominidae.Hominoids are agile climbers of trees except for gorillas and humans,. Their diet is best described as vegetarian, consisting of leaves, seeds, nuts, fruits, and in most cases other animals, either hunted, scavenged or farmed in the case of humans, along with anything else available and easily digested.

The Great Apes have characteristics that set them apart from other apes and primates:

  1. The Great Apes are able to use tools, and use language.
  2. Their social lives are complex and they are able to solve problems.
  3. All apes have the ability to walk bipedally (on two legs), though some do it more than others like humans and bonobos.
  4. Great apes can distinguish colors, and rely mostly on vision and hearing rather than smell. They have a wide range of vocalizations, and facial expressions.
  5. Great apes are intelligent, capable thinkers and able to problem solve and learn language.
  6. The great apes live in complex social groups,

In appearance the great apes have many similarities. The face is almost naked, and the ears are round and mostly hairless. They do not have cheek pouches. The thumb is shorter than the fingers and opposable. Except for the human, the arms are longer than the legs and the big toe is also opposable.

There are a few other apes in addition to the great apes, called the “lesser apes”. The family Hylobatidae consists of many species of gibbons. They are different physically, socially and mentally from the great apes which includes; chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and humans.

Lesser Apes – Gibbons

Lesser Apes are smaller in size, and unlike the great apes which live in complex social groups, gibbons live in pairs for life. They don’t make nests like most of the great apes, and in some ways, they look more similar to monkeys than the great apes.

Like the great apes, Gibbons lack tails, and have the same dental formula. Their skulls are also similar to those of great apes, having enlarged braincases and huge eye orbits that face forward.

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