• STV
  • MySTV

New species of orangutan discovered in Indonesia

The Tapanuli orangutan species is the most endangered of all the great apes.

There are only 800 Tapanuli orangutans.
There are only 800 Tapanuli orangutans. University of Zurich

A new species of orangutan has been discovered and it is already endangered.

The Tapanuli orangutan has been found living in the forests of North Sumatra in Indonesia, but there are only 800 of the mammals left, leading scientists to fear that the new species could be both discovered and become extinct in their lifetimes.

Tapanuli orangutans were originally considered to be part of the Sumatran orangutan population, but the discovery that it is actually part of a separate species means it is the most endangered of all the great apes.

Tapanuli orangutans are the most endangered of all the great apes.
Tapanuli orangutans are the most endangered of all the great apes. University of Zurich

The realisation that a new species of orangutan had been discovered came about after Pongo tapanuliensis bones were discovered and its skull was found to be "potentially unique".

Subsequent tests showed that it had larger canine teeth than those of other orangutans.

Tapanuli orangutans were found to have larger canine teeth than other orangutans.
Tapanuli orangutans were found to have larger canine teeth than other orangutans. University of Zurich

Researchers then conducted the largest ever genomic analysis, which involved a comparison of genomic features such as DNA sequence, structural variation and gene expression, on wild orangutans and found evidence pointing to a third species.

Anton Nurcahyo, a PhD student from the Australian National University, who worked on the study told how researchers "were completely surprised to find that the skull is quite different in some characteristics from orangutan skulls we had seen before."

He added: "It has a smaller skull, but larger canine teeth than other orangutan species."

Tapanuli orangutans were found to have smaller skulls than other orangutans.
Tapanuli orangutans were found to have smaller skulls than other orangutans. University of Zurich

It was only in 1996 that orangutans were found to not be one single species, but two: Bornean and Sumatran.

The latest research published in [Current Biology](http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(17/) has now widened that to three.

Dr Maja Mattle-Greminger, of the University of Zurich, who led the genomic analysis along with Dr Alexander Nater, said: "For quite some time, we had been working on genomic data to investigate the genetic structure and evolutionary history of all existing orangutan populations.

"One consistent result was that we identified three very old evolutionary lineages among all orangutans, despite only having two species currently described".

Up until 1996, there was only thought to be one species of orangutan.
Up until 1996, there was only thought to be one species of orangutan. University of Zurich/Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme

The discovery promoted Dr Nater to carry out extensive computer modelling to reconstruct the population history of orangutans in the region.

His analysis suggested the Tapanuli orangutans, found in the Batang Toru forest area of the island, may have been isolated from other Sumatran populations for at least 10-20,000 years.

Tapanuli orangutans have been discovered in the Batang Toru forest of North Sumatra in Indonesia.
Tapanuli orangutans have been discovered in the Batang Toru forest of North Sumatra in Indonesia. University of Zurich

Professor Serge Wich, of Liverpool John Moores University, who provided ecological expertise to the study, said: "It is incredibly exciting that a new orangutan species has been described and it's a wonderful addition to Indonesia's high biodiversity.

"At the same time the low number of Tapanuli orangutans in the wild indicates that there can be no complacency in terms of its conservation.

"If steps are not taken quickly to reduce current and future threats to conserve every last remaining bit of forest, we may see the discovery and extinction of a great ape species within our lifetime."

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. At least 6 characters please. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
At least 6 characters please
ShowHide
This field is required. At least 6 characters please.
You have to be 16 or over to join
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
Type your full postcode and select your address This field is required. It doesn't look like you've entered a valid postcode. Can't find your address? Confirm the details you've given us are correct by clicking here

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, including our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. Any issues contact us.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.