It happens every time scientists think they’ve learned everything about a subject. Something pops up that makes them question everything they thought they knew.
Once scientists thought that the world was flat. Now, evidence proves otherwise without a doubt.
When documenting animal species, there’s always the chance that some hybrids will come along that will mess up the accounting. And, sometimes, an entirely new species will be discovered.
That’s what happened recently in the treetops on the Indonesian island of Borneo. There, researchers discovered an entirely new species of great ape that no one knew existed before that moment!
This ape, now documented as the “Tapanuli orangutan” is the first new species of great ape discovered since 1929 when the bonobo was found in the Congo.
Scientists believe that this new orangutan evolved from an ancient kind of ape 3.4 million years ago. They are a common ancestor of Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, according to Global Wildlife Conservation(GWC).
“This discovery shows that despite almost 50 years of orangutan research on Sumatra there is still so much to learn about these apes,” said Serge Wich, a co-author on the study, which was published in Current Biology this week.
A press release by the scientists that analyzed the genetics of the orangutans stated that the animals were distinct from other orangutans and “therefore a separate species,” the press release reads. They are found in only a few patches of rainforest in the Tapanuli region of North Sumatra.
Sadly, this region is being depleted rapidly and this new species is already endangered with only 800 remaining. Orangutan habitat in Sumatra declined by 60 percent between 1985 and 2007, according to GWC:
“In addition to illegal hunting, has led to a significant population reduction of both species in recent years … Logging, mining concessions, agricultural plantations and a proposed hydro dam all continue to threaten the orangutans’ habitat and survival,” the organization wrote.
This major discovery is a source of great joy to those who study this land and its inhabitants.
Source: The Dodo