orangtuan longevity and human origins

John Grehan jgrehan at SCIENCEBUFF.ORG
Wed Jun 1 12:27:07 CDT 2005

Something that has been hinted at, but not clearly delineated in the
literature, is the apparent longevity of orangutans. A recent paper by
Wich et al (Journal of Human Evolution 47: 2004) now gives some clarity
that suggests that orangutans may well be the longest living primates
apart from us. At the very least chimpanzees and orangutans together are
the most long-lived with perhaps no significant difference between them,
but general indications are that chimpanzees may have a shorter overall
life span than orangutans. The general literature either puts chimps in
the 40's or mid 50's while gorillas make it to about 50. The paper by
Wich et al put orangutan males at least 58 years and females at least
53. They emphasize that the longevity of female orangutans are probably


Wich et al. put estimated age at death for an individual of 15 at 46 and
40 for orangutan males and females respectively, compared with 21 and 41
for wild chimpanzees, 33 and 41 for captive chimpanzees, and 53 and 56
for hunter-gatherers. 


The differences in age between orangutans and chimpanzees is still
relatively small, so one could question whether the difference is
statistically significant. If it does, one might assert with reasonable
confidence that longevity represents another potential synapomorphy for
humans and orangutans. If the orangutan populations are not exterminated
in the meantime, we might actually find out.


John Grehan


Dr. John R. Grehan

Director of Science and Collections

Buffalo Museum of Science1020 Humboldt Parkway

Buffalo, NY 14211-1193

email: jgrehan at sciencebuff.org

Phone: (716) 896-5200 ext 372




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