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This article is about a family of apes. For other uses, see Gibbon (disambiguation).
Temporal range: Miocene–Recent
Hylobates lar pair of white and black 01.jpg
Lar gibbons (Hylobates lar)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Superfamily: Hominoidea
Family: Hylobatidae
Gray, 1870
Type genus


Distribución hylobatidae.png
Distribution in Southeast Asia

Gibbons (/ˈɡɪbənz/) are apes in the family Hylobatidae /ˌhlɵˈbtɨd/. The family historically contained one genus, but now is split into four genera. Gibbons occur in tropical and subtropical rainforests from northeast India to Indonesia and north to southern China, including the islands of Sumatra, Borneo, and Java.

Also called the lesser apes, gibbons differ from great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, bonobos and humans) in being smaller, exhibiting low sexual dimorphism, in not making nests, and in certain anatomical details in which they superficially more closely resemble monkeys than great apes do. But like all apes, gibbons evolved to become tailless. Gibbons also display pair-bonding, unlike most of the great apes. Gibbons are masters of their primary mode of locomotion, brachiation, swinging from branch to branch for distances of up to 15 m (50 ft), at speeds as high as 55 km/h (34 mph). They can also make leaps of up to 8 m (26 ft), and walk bipedally with their arms raised for balance. They are the fastest and most agile of all tree-dwelling, non-flying mammals.[citation needed]

Depending on species and gender, gibbons' fur coloration varies from dark to light brown shades, and anywhere between black and white. It is rare to see a completely white gibbon.

Gibbon species include the siamang, the white-handed or lar gibbon, and the hoolock gibbons.

Evolutionary history[edit]

The dating of the evolution of these genera has been difficult.[3] The best current estimates place Nomascus diverging from the other genera about 8 million years ago (Mya), and Symphalangus and Hylobates diverging at 7 Mya. At the species level, Hylobates pileatus diverged from H. lar and H. agilis at 3.9 Mya, and H. lar and H. agilis separated at 3.3 Mya. The extinct Bunopithecus sericus is a gibbon or gibbon-like ape which, until recently, was thought to be closely related to the hoolock gibbons.[2]


Hominoid family tree
Siamang, Symphalangus syndactylus
Lar gibbon (Hylobates lar)

The family is divided into four genera based on their diploid chromosome number: Hylobates (44), Hoolock (38), Nomascus (52), and Symphalangus (50).[2][4]


Many gibbons are hard to identify based on fur coloration, so are identified either by song or genetics.[6] These morphological ambiguities have led to hybrids in zoos. Zoos often receive gibbons of unknown origin and therefore rely on morphological variation or labels that are impossible to verify to assign species and subspecies names, so it is common for separate species of gibbons to be misidentified and housed together. Interspecific hybrids, hybrids within a genus, also occur in wild gibbons where the ranges overlap.[7]

Physical description[edit]

One unique aspect of gibbon anatomy is that the wrist is composed of a ball and socket joint, allowing for biaxial movement. This greatly reduces the amount of energy needed in the upper arm and torso, while also reducing stress on the shoulder joint. Sometimes when a gibbon is swinging, its wrist will naturally dislocate until the gibbon finishes its swing.[citation needed] Gibbons also have long hands and feet, with a deep cleft between the first and second digits of their hands. Their fur is usually black, gray, or brownish, often with white markings on hands, feet, and face. The male gibbon will sometimes end up with some dark patches in the white to show it is a suitable choice for mating.[vague] Some species have an enlarged throat sac, which inflates and serves as a resonating chamber when the animals call. This structure is enormous in a few species, equaling the size of the animal's head. Their voice is much more powerful than that of any human singer, although they are at best half a man's height.[8]

Gibbon skulls and teeth resemble those of the great apes, and their noses are similar to those of all catarrhine primates. The dental formula is [9] The siamang, which is the largest of the 17 species, is distinguished by having two fingers on each foot stuck together, hence the generic and species names Symphalangus and syndactylus.[10]


Genus Hoolock

Gibbons are social animals. They are strongly territorial, and defend their boundaries with vigorous visual and vocal displays. The vocal element, which can often be heard for distances of up to 1 km (0.6 mi), consists of a duet between a mated pair, with their young sometimes joining in. In most species, males, and in some also females, sing solos to attract mates, as well as advertise their territories.[11] The song can be used to identify not only which species of gibbon is singing, but also the area from which it comes.[12]

Gibbons are masters of their primary mode of locomotion, brachiation, swinging from branch to branch for distances of up to 15 m (50 ft), at speeds as high as 55 km/h (34 mph).[13] The gibbons' ball-and-socket joints allow them unmatched speed and accuracy when swinging through trees. Nonetheless, their mode of transportation can lead to hazards when a branch breaks or a hand slips, and researchers estimate that the majority of gibbons suffer bone fractures one or more times during their lifetimes.[14] They are the fastest and most agile of all tree-dwelling, non-flying mammals.[14]

Conservation status[edit]

Most species are endangered, primarily due to degradation or loss of their forest habitats.

In traditional Chinese culture[edit]

Further information: Monkeys in Chinese culture
Two gibbons in an oak tree by the Song dynasty painter Yì Yuánjí

The sinologist Robert van Gulik concluded gibbons were widespread in Central and Southern China until at least the Song dynasty, and furthermore, based on an analysis of references to primates in Chinese poetry and other literature and their portrayal in Chinese paintings, the Chinese word yuán (猿) referred specifically to gibbons until they were extirpated throughout most of the country due to habitat destruction (circa 14th century). In modern usage, however, yuán is a generic word for ape. Early Chinese writers viewed the "noble" gibbons, gracefully moving high in the treetops, as the "gentlemen" (jūnzǐ, 君子) of the forests, in contrast to the greedy macaques, attracted by human food. The Taoists ascribed occult properties to gibbons, believing them to be able to live for several hundred years and to turn into humans.[15]

Gibbon figurines as old as from the fourth to third centuries BCE (the Zhou dynasty) have been found in China. Later on, gibbons became a popular object for Chinese painters, especially during the Song dynasty and early Yuan dynasty, when Yì Yuánjí and Mùqī Fǎcháng excelled in painting these apes. From Chinese cultural influence, the Zen motif of the "gibbon grasping at the reflection of the moon in the water" became popular in Japanese art, as well, though gibbons have never occurred naturally in Japan.[16]


  1. ^ a b Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 178–181. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. 
  2. ^ a b c Mootnick, A.; Groves, C. P. (2005). "A new generic name for the hoolock gibbon (Hylobatidae)". International Journal of Primatology 26 (26): 971–976. doi:10.1007/s10764-005-5332-4. 
  3. ^ Matsudaira K, Ishida T (2010) Phylogenetic relationships and divergence dates of the whole mitochondrial genome sequences among three gibbon genera. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol.
  4. ^ a b Geissmann, Thomas (December 1995). "Gibbon systematics and species identification" (PDF). International Zoo News 42: 467–501. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  5. ^ Geissmann, Thomas. "Gibbon Systematics and Species Identification" (web version). Ch.3: "Adopting a Systematic Framework" Retrieved: 2011-04-05.
  6. ^ Tenaza, R. (1984). "Songs of hybrid gibbons (Hylobates lar × H. muelleri)". American Journal of Primatology 8 (3): 249–253. doi:10.1002/ajp.1350080307. 
  7. ^ Sugawara, K. (1979). "Sociological study of a wild group of hybrid baboons between Papio anubis and P. hamadryas in the Awash Valley, Ethiopia". Primates 20 (1): 21–56. doi:10.1007/BF02373827. 
  8. ^ Lull, Richard Swann (1921). "Seventy Seven". Organic Evolution. Newyork: The Macmillan Company. pp. 641–677. 
  9. ^ Myers, P. 2000. Family Hylobatidae, Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 05, 2011-04-05.
  10. ^ Geissmann, T. (2011). "Typical Characteristics". Gibbon Research Lab. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  11. ^ Clarke E, Reichard UH, Zuberbühler K (2006). "The Syntax and Meaning of Wild Gibbon Songs". In Emery, Nathan. PLoS ONE 1 (1): e73. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000073. PMC 1762393. PMID 17183705. 
  12. ^ Glover, Hilary. Recognizing gibbons from their regional accents, BioMed Central, EurekAlert.org, 6 February 2011.
  13. ^ Springer, Joseph; Holley, Dennis (2012). An Introduction to Zoology. Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 486. ISBN 9781449682811. 
  14. ^ a b Attenborough, David. Life of Mammals, "Episode 8: Life in the Trees", BBC Warner, 2003.
  15. ^ van Gulik, Robert. "The gibbon in China. An essay in Chinese animal lore." E. J. Brill, Leiden, Holland. (1967). Brief summary
  16. ^ Geissmann, Thomas. "Gibbon paintings in China, Japan, and Korea: Historical distribution, production rate and context", Gibbon Journal, No. 4, May 2008. (includes color reproductions of a large number of gibbon paintings by many artists)

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibbon — Please support Wikipedia.
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Hastings Tribune

Kearney Hub
Mon, 28 Jul 2014 10:15:00 -0700

HEBRON — Shelton/Gibbon advanced to the winners' bracket final with a pair of wins at the Class C Seniors State Tournament in Hebron. Shelton/Gibbon defeated Malcolm 3-1 on Saturday, then toppled Wypore 9-8 on Sunday. Wymore led 8-4 after six ...
Grand Island Independent
Mon, 28 Jul 2014 22:03:45 -0700

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Grand Island Independent
Sun, 27 Jul 2014 22:48:45 -0700

HEBRON — Tanner Gideon's bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth gave Shelton/Gibbon a thrilling 9-8 victory over Wymore Sunday in the Class C state tournament winners bracket semifinals. Gideon's heroics came with two outs and after ...
Kearney Hub
Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:07:30 -0700

KEARNEY VOLUNTEER Firefighter Nathan Staskal, center, uses a K12 saw to cut an opening in an overhead door at the Gibbon city shop Tuesday night after fire broke out inside the building. Looking on are assistant Gibbon Fire Chief Rick Brown, left, and ...
Grand Island Independent
Sat, 26 Jul 2014 19:41:15 -0700

HEBRON — Gareth Stroh tossed a complete-game six-hitter to lead Shelton/Gibbon to a 3-1 win over Malcolm Saturday in the first round of the Class C state tournament. Shelton/Gibbon jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning and added ...
Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:16:35 -0700

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Wise County Messenger
Sat, 26 Jul 2014 13:03:45 -0700

One of the photos, which was posted on the Wise County Messenger's Facebook page and published in the Saturday, July 19, issue of the paper, showed Gibbon walking through a parking lot at Wise Electric Co-op on Farm Road 730 in north Decatur.
Grand Island Independent
Fri, 18 Jul 2014 22:15:00 -0700

Shelton/Gibbon success continues at seniors level. Story · Comments. Print: Create a hardcopy of this page; Font Size: Default font size: Larger font size. Posted: Friday, July 25, 2014 2:37 pm | Updated: 2:39 pm, Fri Jul 25, 2014. Shelton/Gibbon ...

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