Apes are Old World anthropoid mammals, more specifically a clade of tailless catarrhine primates, belonging to the biological superfamily Hominoidea. The apes are native to Africa and South-east Asia. Apes are the largest primates and the orangutan, an ape, is the largest living arboreal animal. Hominoids are traditionally forest dwellers, although chimpanzees may range into savanna, and the extinct australopithecines were likely also savanna inhabitants, inferred from their morphology. Humans inhabit almost every terrestrial habitat.
Hominoidea contains two families of living (extant) species:
- Hylobatidae consists of four genera and sixteen species of gibbon, including the lar gibbon and the siamang. They are commonly referred to as lesser apes.
- Hominidae consists of orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and humans. Alternatively, the hominidae family are collectively described as the great apes.
Members of the superfamily are called hominoids (not to be confused with "hominids" or "hominins").
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. Biologists have used the term "ape" to mean a member of the superfamily Hominoidea other than humans, or more recently to mean all members of the superfamily Hominoidea, so that "ape" becomes another word for "hominoid". See also Primate: Historical and modern terminology.
Except for gorillas and humans, hominoids are agile climbers of trees. Their diet is best described as vegetarian or omnivorous, consisting of leaves, nuts, seeds and fruits, including grass seeds, and in most cases other animals, either hunted or scavenged (or farmed in the case of humans), along with anything else available and easily digested.
Most nonhuman hominoids are rare or endangered. The chief threat to most of the endangered species is loss of tropical rainforest habitat, though some populations are further imperiled by hunting for bushmeat.
Famous quotes containing the word ape:
“You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now man is still more ape than any ape.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche (18441900)
“A book is a mirror: if an ape looks into it an apostle is hardly likely to look out.”
—G.C. (Georg Christoph)
“Nevertheless, it is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man.”
—H.L. (Henry Lewis)