Pongidae - the Great Apes Family
Created | Updated Nov 20, 2006
In the classification of living things, Pongidae is the family of animals that are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. The members of that family, which are called Pongids, are the gorillas (Gorilla gorilla), the common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), the bonobos (Pan paniscus), and the orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus). An often-used illustration of how closely related we are is the fact that our DNA is so similar (there is only a 2.5% difference in the nucleotide sequence in the DNA of humans and chimps, compared to a 15.8% difference between humans and the new world monkeys, for example).
The pongids are sometimes referred to as the 'great apes' (more because of their size than their accomplishments). The pongids do not have tails, and they are both larger and more intelligent than the gibbons and simangs (family Hylobatidae) and the monkeys. They generally have complex social habits, although the orangutans tend to be rather solitary, territorial creatures who hang about in the trees a lot. The chimps and gorillas spend most of their time on the ground. They move around mostly on their legs, but touching their hands to the ground to keep balance. (They are sometimes called 'knuckle-walkers' for that reason.) Their skeletons are not well-designed for full-time upright walking. The bonobo chimps are known for their particularly licentious sexual behavior, as well as their exceptional intelligence.
The following table shows where Pongids stand in the classification of living things, beginning with the broadest category, which contains all the others, and moving in to the most specific category, Pongidae itself. Each category is one of several members of the one above it; for example, the Class Mammalia is one of many classes in the Phylum Chordata.
|Domain:||Eucarya||Living things whose cells have nuclei|
|Phylum:||Chordata||Animals that have backbones|
|Class:||Mammalia||Warm, furry, milk-producing animals|
|Order:||Primates||Lemurs, monkeys, apes, etc.|
|Suborder:||Anthropoidea||Simian primates (all the monkeys, apes, etc.)|
|Infraorder:||Catarrini||Old World monkeys, gibbons, apes|
|Superfamily:||Homonoidea||Great apes and humans|
|Family:||Pongidae||Great apes other than humans|