Gibbons are popular zoo exhibits because of their arm swinging skills. People have been intrigued by their ability to swing so easily. Moreover, scientists have always been fascinated by their amazing acrobatic abilities. Their agility in forest tree tops, simply leaves everybody stupefied. Gibbons are not monkeys, but are smaller apes. The lack of tails and presence of rotatory shoulder blade resemble apes. However, their small and slender appearance bears semblance to monkeys, which is why many mistake them to be monkeys. Gibbons are with flat faces, full shoulder rotations, broad chest, arms which are longer than legs, grasping hands and feet, enlarged brain, absence of tail and presence of opposing digits. Their However, they have several unique features.
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Their scientific classification is as follows:
There are 15 gibbon species, which are placed under 4 genera: Nomascus, Symphalangus, Hoolock, and Hylobates.
Also known as smaller apes, gibbons are relatively small, lightweight, agile and slender animals with a small round head, long arms, long fingers, but relatively short thumb. The ball and socket joint in their wrist is another highlight. Their body is covered with dense, fluffy, light colored to dark brown hair. This hair envelopes most of the body parts, except the face, fingers, palms, soles of the feet and armpits. Their small jaws feature sharp canine teeth. Female gibbons are generally heavier than the males.
Gibbons spend most of their time swinging in trees. Thus, they are classified under arboreal animals. They are found in the wild in the tropical and subtropical rainforests of South, Southeast and East Asia. Countries like China, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Northeast India, Thailand and Cambodia have the privilege of housing small populations of this animal.
Unlike the greater apes, like gorillas, etc. gibbons do not build their own nests. They possess fleshy pads, devoid of nerves attached to the hip bones, called ischial callosities, which enables them to sleep in the sitting position. They are found sleeping in sitting position in the forks of branches, with their heads tucked into their laps and their long arms wrapped around their knees. Groups of gibbons have their usual sleeping trees in which they assemble at about 1600 – 1800 hours. They are diurnal primates, being active about ten and a half hours a day.
Gibbons mostly enjoy fruits, which they consume during their hunt among the trees during the day. They also munch on tender shoots, leaves, seeds, barks and flowers. Eggs and insects are also part of their diet.
Mode of Transport…
Their long arms enable them to swing from one branch to another; one tree to another and they can remain suspended in the air by their hands. Their long fingers enables them to get a good grasp on the branch, by acting like a hook. This arm-swinging movement is called brachiation, which enables them to swing distances of about 50 feet in trees, as high as 200 feet, at a speed of about 35 mph. Besides the swinging form of transport, these primates are also known for their bipedal locomotion. They walk bipedally with their arm assisting to maintain balance. They often exert their body weight on their hands and then swing their legs. However, gibbons cannot swim and thus avoid water.
Some are eager to keep gibbons as pets, however, keeping primates as pets is not such a good idea. Primates are meant to be in the wild and confining them to an enclosure in your backyard is simply being unfair.