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Ape

Ape is a common, yet rather imprecise, name for some animals of the order Primates. At one stage it often meant the family Pongidae (Gorilla, Chimpanzee and Orangutan collectively called the great apes), but that family seems to have been banished by the cladists for being paraphyletic. It is also common to consider the Hylobatidae (Gibbons and siamangs) as apes, though most scientific taxonomies put great apes and gibbons in different families.

Some authors include the great apes in the family Hominidae, which is the grouping for humans and their extinct ape-like ancestors. Humans are descended from extinct apes, and can accurately be referred to as bipedal apes.

The apes are a group within the infra-order Catarrhini that also includes the monkeys of Africa and Eurasia. Apes can be distinguished from monkeys by the number of cusps on their molars (apes have five - the "Y-5" molar pattern, monkeys have only four in a "bilophodont" pattern). Apes have more mobile shoulder joints and arms, ribcages that are flatter front-to-back, and a shorter, less mobile spine compared to monkeys. These are all anatomical adaptations to vertical hanging and swinging locomotion (brachiation) in the apes. No living apes have tails, whereas most monkeys do.

The original usage of "ape" in English may have referred to the baboon, an African monkey. A tailless monkey species, a macaque that survives on Gibraltar and the North African coast is also known as the Barbary Ape.

All these ideas point at wild animals, somewhat resembing humans, but covered in hair and often preferring to walk on all fours. Most kinds of apes climb trees. They are best described as omnivorous, their diet consisting of fruit, grass seeds, and in most cases small quantities of meat (either hunted or scavenged), along with anything else available and easily digested. They live in Africa and Asia.

Most ape species are rare or endangered. The chief threat to most ape species is loss of tropical rainforest habitat, though some populations are also imperiled due to hunting.

Cultural aspects The intelligence and humanoid appearance of apes are responsible for legends which attribute human qualities; for example, apes are sometimes said to be able to speak but refuse to do so in order to avoid work. In India, apes are considered helpful (see, for example, Hanuman). They are also said to be the result of a curse -- a Jewish folktale claims that one of the races who built the Tower of Babel became apes as punishment, while Muslim lore says that the Jews of Elath[?] became apes as punishment for fishing on the Sabbath. Christian folklore claims that apes are a symbol of lust and were created by Satan in response to God's creation of humans.



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