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Temporal range: Late Miocene to Recent
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Superfamily: Hominoidea
Family: Pongidae
Elliot 1913

Pongidae, or the Pongids, is an obsolete primate taxon containing gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans. They are sometimes called "great apes".[1] Pongidae is now known to be paraphyletic. Pongids split from Hominina around seven mya.[2] The corresponding crown group for this taxon is Hominidae. Pongidae has seven extant member species. This taxon is rarely used today but is of historical significance.[3][4]

Distinction to hominins[edit]

Pongids Humans[notes 1]
Mode of locomotion Knuckle walking, arboreal Bipedalism
Location of foramen magnum Back of the skull Under the skull
Average brain capacity 400 cc 1700 cc
Skull (viewed from top) pear-shaped ovoid
Widest part of skull viewed from behind Parietal region Base of the skull(near the auditory region)
Palate Rectangular Parabolic
Body Growth Fast Slow
Phalanges Curved Straight


The pongid skull contains the following features that are absent or less pronounced in humans:

Adaptations for locomotion[edit]

The following adaptations are for arboreal and knuckle walking locomotion and are not found in humans:

Pongid Human
Arms are as long as or longer than the legs Arms are shorter than the legs
Scapula has an orientation for supporting the body weight beneath the arms Scapula is oriented for holding the arms by the side
Digits are long and curved for grasping branches Digits are shorter and straight
Pelvis is shaped to support the legs and trunk in the bent-over posture Pelvis is shaped to support the legs and trunk in a vertical position
Knees do not lock the legs Knees lock the legs straight to minimize the expenditure of energy when standing
Pelvis is relatively large Pelvis is much shorter and bowl-shaped
Iliac pillar is elongated The iliac crest is oriented more to the side and slanted

Similarity to hominins[edit]

The australopithecines show intermediate character states between pongids and humans, with Pithecanthropus intermediate between australopithecines and humans. Members of the genus Homo share many key features with anatomically modern man.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Pongid definition".
  2. ^ Cordain, Loren (2007). "Implications of Plio-pleistocene diets for modern humans". In Peter S. Ungar (ed.). Evolution of the human diet: the known, the unknown and the unknowable. pp. 264–5. "Since the evolutionary split between hominins and pongids approximately 7 million years ago, the available evidence shows that all species of hominins ate an omnivorous diet composed of minimally processed, wild-plant, and animal foods.
  3. ^ Shoshani J, Groves CP, Simons EL & Gunnell GF., 1996. Primate phylogeny: morphological vs. molecular results. Mol Phyl. Evol., 5(1):102-54.
  4. ^ ITIS
  1. ^ Humans are the only extant Homininans.

External links[edit]