apelike, adj.
/ayp/, n., v., aped, aping.
1. any of a group of anthropoid primates characterized by long arms, a broad chest, and the absence of a tail, comprising the family Pongidae (great ape), which includes the chimpanzee, gorilla, and orangutan, and the family Hylobatidae (lesser ape), which includes the gibbon and siamang.
2. (loosely) any primate except humans.
3. an imitator; mimic.
4. Informal. a big, ugly, clumsy person.
5. to imitate; mimic: to ape another's style of writing.
6. go ape, Slang. to become violently emotional: When she threatened to leave him, he went ape.
7. go ape over, Slang. to be extremely enthusiastic about: They go ape over old rock music.
[bef. 900; ME; OE apa; c. OS apo, ON api, OHG affo (G Affe)]

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Any of the tailless, anthropoid primates of two families: Hylobatidae (the lesser apes: gibbons and siamangs) and Pongidae (the great apes: chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas).

Apes are found in the tropical forests of western and central Africa and South Asia. They are distinguished from monkeys by having no tail, having an appendix, and having a more complex brain. Apes typically move about by swinging, and they tend to stand erect, occasionally walking on two feet. Highly intelligent animals, apes are more closely related to humans than are any other living primates. As a result of habitat destruction and hunting, all the apes are now regarded as endangered.

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  any tailless primate of the families Hylobatidae ( gibbons) and Hominidae ( chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, gorillas, and human beings). Apes are found in the tropical forests (tropical rainforest) of western and central Africa and Southeast Asia. Apes are distinguished from monkeys (monkey) by the complete absence of a tail and the presence of an appendix and by their more complex brains. Although human beings are categorized zoologically as members of the broader ape superfamily, they are usually placed within their own subcategories on account of their larger brain size, more advanced cognitive abilities (particularly the ability to speak), and striding two-legged gait.

 The gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo, and orangutan are called great apes in recognition of their comparatively large size and humanlike features; the gibbons are called lesser apes. The great apes are much more intelligent than monkeys and gibbons. Great apes, for example, are able to recognize themselves in mirrors (monkeys and other nonhumans cannot, with the exception of bottlenose dolphins). They can also reason abstractly, learn quasi-linguistic communication, at least when taught by humans, and learn in captivity to make simple tools (though some populations of orangutans and chimpanzees make tools in the wild). The great apes were formerly classified in their own family, Pongidae, but, because of their extremely close relation to humans and the fact that orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees are not as closely related to each other as chimpanzees are to humans, all are now grouped with humans in the family Hominidae. Within this family gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans make up the subfamily Homininae, while orangutans are placed in their own subfamily, Ponginae. Within Homininae, humans are often placed in their own “tribe,” Hominini, while gorillas and chimpanzees are grouped in the tribe Gorillini. All nonhuman apes have been classified as endangered species.

 Gibbons (family Hylobatidae) typically move about by swinging ( brachiation), and it has been theorized that the ancestors of all apes may once have moved in this way. Nonhuman apes can stand or sit erect with great facility, and occasionally they walk upright, especially when carrying an object. Apes have broad chests, scapulae (scapula) on the back, and full rotation at the shoulder. There is a pad of cartilage (meniscus) between the ulna and the carpal bones (carpal bone) in the wrist that gives the wrist great flexibility. The lumbar section of the spine (lower back) has only four to six vertebrae (vertebral column) instead of the seven or more of Old World monkeys. There is no external tail; instead, the remnant three to six vertebrae are fused into the tailbone, or coccyx.

 The gibbons and the orangutan are arboreal, while the gorilla, chimpanzee, and bonobo spend some or much of their time on the ground. African apes (gorilla, chimpanzee, and bonobo) travel on the ground by quadrupedal knuckle walking, in which the long fingers of the forelimbs are folded under to provide support for the body. Fruits and other plant material are the chief foods, though small invertebrates are eaten occasionally by all apes, and chimpanzees hunt large vertebrates, especially monkeys. Most apes lodge at night in trees, and all except gibbons build nests for sleeping. Group size ranges from the virtually solitary orangutan to the sociable chimpanzees and bonobos, which may live in bands of 100 or more.

      Hominidae and Hylobatidae diverged about 18 million years ago, but the evolutionary history of the apes includes numerous extinct forms, many of which are known only from fragmentary remains. The earliest-known hominoids are from Egypt and date from about 36.6 million years (Oligocene Epoch) ago. Fossil genera include Catopithecus and Aegyptopithecus, possible successive ancestors of both the Old World monkeys and the apes. Later deposits have yielded such fossils as Pliopithecus, once thought to be related to gibbons but now known to be primitive and long separated from them. Closer to the modern apes are proconsul, Afropithecus, Dryopithecus, and Sivapithecus, the latter being a possible ancestor of the orangutan.

Colin Peter Groves

Additional Reading
William C. McGrew, Linda F. Marchant, and Toshisada Nishida, Great Ape Societies (1996), consists of a series of accounts covering all aspects of the lives of the great apes as observed in the wild. Great Apes (1997), produced and directed by Nigel Ashcroft, is a video documentary examining morphology, evolution, and natural history. Holger Preuschoft et al. (eds.), The Lesser Apes: Evolutionary and Behavioural Biology (1984), is an account by numerous experts on all aspects of the anatomy, taxonomy, and behaviour of gibbons. Vernon Reynolds, The Apes: The Gorilla, Chimpanzee, Orangutan, and Gibbon (1967, reissued 1971), is well illustrated and intended for a general readership. Robert M. Yerkes and Ada W. Yerkes, The Great Apes: A Study of Anthropoid Life (1929, reprinted 1970), remains a classic and accessible work. Paola Cavalieri and Peter Singer (eds.), The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity (1993, reissued 1996), draws ethical conclusions about the treatment of our closest living relatives based on recent scientific findings.

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Universalium. 2010.

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