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Byrne, Richard W. University of St. Andrews, Saint Andrews, Scotland, United Kingdom.
Last reviewed:February 2017
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- Old World monkeys
- Great apes
- Brain size
- Social skills
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The apes are a branch of Old World primates, distinguished from monkeys by their mode of locomotion (arm swinging, rather than quadrupedal walking). It has long been known that humans are more closely related to apes than to other primates. However, the true phylogenetic position of humans has become clear only since the 1960s as a result of advances in molecular taxonomy. Humans are more closely related to African apes than to Asian apes, and they are particularly close to chimpanzees. Dating of these phylogenetic events is problematic due to the scarcity of reliable fossils ancestral to modern apes. However, it is estimated that the ancestors of all African great apes, as well as humans, separated from the orangutan line (Fig. 1) about 14–16 million years ago (MYA), only about 2 million years after the great ape line diverged from that of the lesser apes (gibbons). Gorillas diverged next, at around 7–8 MYA. The human and chimpanzee lineages finally separated only about 5–6 MYA. Much more recently, a chimpanzee population south of the Congo River became so distinct [in appearance, behavior, and, to a lesser extent, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)] that it is now classified as a separate species, the bonobo. See also: Anthropology; Apes; Evolution of African great apes; Fossil apes; Fossil humans; Fossil primates; Phylogeny; Primates; Taxonomy
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