Gibbon–human last common ancestor

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Hominoid family tree
Skeletons of members of the ape superfamily, Hominoidea. There are two extant families: Hominidae, the "great apes"; and Hylobatidae, the gibbons, or "lesser apes".

The phylogenetic split of the superfamily Hominoidea (apes) into the Hylobatidae (gibbons) and Hominidae (great apes) families (also dubbed "gibbon–human last common ancestor", GHLCA[by whom?]) is dated to the early Miocene, roughly 20 to 16 million years ago.[1]

Hylobatidae has four gibbon genera (Hylobates with 9 species, Hoolock with 3 species, Nomascus with 7 species and Symphalangus with only 1 species) [1][2] containing 20 different species. Hominidae has two subfamilies, Ponginae (orangutans) and Homininae (African apes, including the human lineage).

Evolutionary history[edit]

A 2014 whole-genome molecular dating analysis indicated that the gibbon lineage diverged from that of great apes (Hominidae) around 17 million years ago (16.8±0.9 Mya), based on certain assumptions about the generation time and mutation rate.[1]

The extinct Bunopithecus sericus was a gibbon or gibbon-like ape.[3] Adaptive divergence associated with chromosomal rearrangements led to rapid radiation of the four genera within the Hylobatidae lineage between about 7 to 5 Mya. Each genus comprises a distinct, well-delineated lineage, but the sequence and timing of divergences among these genera have been hard to resolve due to radiative speciations and extensive incomplete lineage sorting.[1][2] Recent coalescent-based analysis of both the coding and noncoding parts of the genome suggests that the most likely sequence of species divergences in the Hylobatidae lineage is (Hylobates, (Nomascus, (Hoolock, Symphalangus))).[2]

Hominoidea (hominoids, apes)





Hominidae (hominids, great apes)
Hominina (Humans)

Appearance and ecology[edit]

Because fossils are so scarce, it is not clear what GHLCA looked like. A 2019 study found that the species was "smaller than previously thought" and about the size of a gibbon.[4]

It is unknown whether GHLCA was tailless and had a broad, flat rib cage like their descendants.[5]: 193  But it is likely that it was a small animal, probably weighing only 12 kilograms (26 lb). This contradicts previous theories that they were the size of chimpanzees and that apes moved to hang and to swing from trees to get off the ground because they were too big. There might have been an arms race in brachiating to reach the best food. Also, the Hominidae, which came later, were smaller than their ancestors, which is contrary to normal evolution where animals get larger over their evolutionary development.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d Carbone, Lucia; et al. (2014). "Gibbon genome and the fast karyotype evolution of small apes". Nature. 513 (11 Sept 2014): 195–201. Bibcode:2014Natur.513..195C. doi:10.1038/nature13679. PMC 4249732. PMID 25209798.
  2. ^ a b c Shi, Cheng-Min; Yang, Ziheng (January 2018). "Coalescent-Based Analyses of Genomic Sequence Data Provide a Robust Resolution of Phylogenetic Relationships among Major Groups of Gibbons". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 35 (1): 159–179. doi:10.1093/molbev/msx277. PMC 5850733. PMID 29087487.
  3. ^ Mootnick, A.; Groves, C. P. (2005). "A new generic name for the hoolock gibbon (Hylobatidae)". International Journal of Primatology. 26 (4): 971–976. doi:10.1007/s10764-005-5332-4. S2CID 8394136.
  4. ^ a b "New Study Suggests that Last Common Ancestor of Humans and Apes was Smaller than Thought". American Museum of Natural History. Archived from the original on 9 December 2019. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  5. ^ Kane, Jonathan; Willoughby, Emily; Michael Keesey, T. (2016-12-31). God's Word or Human Reason?: An Inside Perspective on Creationism. ISBN 9781629013725.

See also[edit]