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Types of Apes: Great & Lesser

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson goes over the different types of greater and lesser apes. In it you'll learn if humans are a part of any of them as well as how they are all classified zoologically.

Links Between the Apes

What do you think? Which of the following animals is most closely related to the other?

  • A gorilla and a chimpanzee
  • A gorilla and a human
  • A human and a chimpanzee
  • An orangutan and a chimpanzee

The answer might surprise you. If you want to find out what the answer is, keep reading this lesson on greater and lesser apes. You'll learn which animals are considered greater apes or lesser apes, how they are classified, and what their major differences are.

The Greater & Lesser Apes

Not that long ago humans were classified, zoologically speaking, separately from any other primate. We were put into our own family, and other primates like apes were put into their own family. Today, things are different. Apes and humans belong to the same superfamily called Hominoidea. The members of this family are thus properly called hominoids.

Today, we know that humans are genetically, morphologically, and even behaviorally quite similar to a select few primates of other species, specifically the apes. These apes are the:

  • Gorilla
  • Orangutan
  • Bonobo
  • Chimpanzee
  • Gibbons

Chimpanzees grooming one another
Chimpanzee

In fact, chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than chimps, gorillas, and orangutans are to one another. So now you know the answer to the introductory question at the start of this lesson!

Because of the many similarities between humans and the first four apes listed above, we are collectively called the great apes. All great apes are now classified zoologically in the family of Hominidae. Please pay careful attention to the spelling differences between this family and its superfamily mentioned above.

While the great apes are part of the same family, the gibbons are classified into a separate family, that of the Hylobatidae. Gibbons are colloquially called the lesser apes and sometimes the smaller apes.

A gibbons
Gibbon

The Differences Between Greater & Lesser Apes

Actually, the above sentence just gave you your first clue as to the major reason why gibbons are called the lesser apes.

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