Orangutan Evolution and Ancestors
There is evidence to suggest that orangutans were on earth two million years ago. They are part of the ape family. Up until about 20-25 million years ago all apes and old world monkeys were in the same category. It is believed that they branched off at that point into two distinct groups. The first is the greater apes which include gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans. They also differentiated in locations around this time as well.
Today there are only two species of orangutans left in the world. They are distinct enough due to their location to be considered separate species. Yet they are still very closely related genetically. In fact, the two species of orangutans can breed with each other without any problems. It has only been in the past 2 million years that the orangutan has taken on the form that we are familiar with today. It was a slow process though and one that still has many missing segments to it.
It is believed that approximately 10,000 years ago orangutans were found in more of a distribution pattern than today. They are limited to only a few regions of Asia today and that land continues to be taken from them every day. Some of the areas where orangutans lived, includes Java, China and Vietnam.
Along the highlands of Sumatra there are fossils that date thousand years. What is believed is that in both of these areas the orangutans were used as a source of meat for the people living in the areas. However, since the population was relatively small and the tools not very advanced it isn’t believed that they were consumed in a large amount.
There is also evidence including cave drawings to indicate that the use of orangutans as pets occurred in very early times. These orangutans were likely the beloved pets of cavemen that lived there. However, there are also indications that some of them were merely raised by the cavemen until they needed additional food sources. It was easier to breed them and to keep them than to have to go back into the forests to find them.
We do have more evidence about the evolution of orangutans than many other animals. This is important because it can help to pave the way for more links of the great apes and even to humans to be examined. There are people on both sides of it about the evolution theory that people came from apes. When you examine the DNA though you can’t deny that they are extremely similar in about 98% of the genetic coding.
While we do know quite a bit about the evolution of orangutans, there is still a great deal about them that we don’t know. Efforts to put together more information has been put aside for now. With the more pressing issue of if the orangutans will continue to survive it is understandable that money and time are being spent on that cause instead.
Hopefully with the right conservation efforts and plenty of education we can get their numbers back up. Only then will researchers once again feel comfortable enough to get back to the theories that remain about their evolution process. These are amazing animals and they certainly have been able to adapt to many changes in their environment. Yet they aren’t a match for the desires of humans. Ironically, it is the choices of humans that have threatened them and also the choices of humans that can safe them.