Gibbons are apes that are highly adapted to arboreal life.
They are native to the dwindling rainforests of Southeast, South and East Asia.
They live in the upper canopy of rainforests.
There are approximately 20 species of gibbons.
The lifespan of a gibbon is about 25 years in the wild and about 40 to 50 years in captivity. The oldest known living gibbon was a 60 year-old male Müller’s gibbon named Nippy, who was housed in the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand.
Also called the lesser apes or small apes, gibbons differ from great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans and humans) in being smaller, exhibiting low sexual dimorphism, and not making nests.
Most gibbon species are about 40–65 cm (16–26 inches) in head and body length, but the siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) can grow up to 90 cm (35 inches). The smaller species (both sexes) weigh about 5.5 kg (12 pounds) – medium species, such the concolor gibbon, weigh about 7.5 kg (17 pounds). The female siamang weighs 10.5 kg (23 pounds) and the male 12 kg (26 pounds).
Depending on the species and sex, gibbons’ fur coloration varies from dark to light brown shades, and any shade between black and white, though a completely “white” gibbon is rare.
They are diurnal meaning that they are active during the day.
Their primary mode of locomotion, brachiation, involves swinging from branch to branch for distances up to 15 m (50 ft), at speeds as high as 55 km/h (34 mph).
They can also make leaps 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, nonflying mammals.
Like all primates, gibbons are social animals.
Unlike most of the great apes, gibbons frequently form long-term pair bonds.
Gibbons are strongly territorial.
A gibbon marks its territory by vocalizing (singing) when traveling within the borders of where they live. The adult male and female sing a duet and their offspring will join in. The adult male and female harmonize, but sing a different song.
The siamang sings a song that can be heard up to 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) through the dense forest canopy. The siamang is one of the loudest land mammal on Earth. The siamang has a unique vocal sac that inflates as they sing and produces remarkably loud and deep sounds.
Single offspring are born after about seven months’ gestation and take seven years to mature.
Most species are either endangered or critically endangered, primarily due to degradation or loss of their forest habitats.
Whole genome molecular dating analyses indicate that the gibbon lineage diverged from that of great apes around 16.8 million years ago.
The English word ‘gibbon‘ is said to be a reborrowing from French, and folk etymology originally from an Orang Asli word.
Gibbon figurines as old as from the fourth to third centuries BC 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.