Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Orangutans Unique In Movement Through Tree Tops

Date:
October 13, 2009
Source:
University of Liverpool
Summary:
Scientists have found that orangutans move through the canopy of tropical forests in a completely different way to all other tree-dwelling primates.

Orangutan in the rainforest Sumatra, Indonesia. Orangutans move in an irregular way which includes upright walking, four-limbed suspension from branches and tree-swaying, whereby they move branches backwards and forwards, with increasing magnitude.
Credit: iStockphoto/Klaus Hollitzer

Movement through a complex meshwork of small branches at the heights of tropical forests presents a unique challenge to animals wanting to forage for food safely. It can be particularly dangerous for large animals where a fall of up to 30m could be fatal. Scientists found that dangerous tree vibrations can be countered by the orangutan's ability to move with an irregular rhythm.

Professor Robin Crompton, from the University of Liverpool's School of Biomedical Sciences, explained that these challenges were similar to the difficulties engineers encountered with London's 'wobbly' Millennium Bridge: "The problems with the Millennium Bridge were caused by large numbers of people walking in sync with the slight sideways motion of the bridge. This regular pattern of movement made the swaying motion of the bridge even worse. We see a similar problem in the movement of animals through the canopy of tropical forests, where there are highly flexible branches.

"Most animals, such as the chimpanzee, respond to these challenges by flexing their limbs to bring their body closer to the branch. Orangutans, however, are the largest arboreal mammal and so they are likely to face more severe difficulties due to weight. If they move in a regular fashion, like their smaller relatives, we get a 'wobbly bridge' situation, whereby the movement of the branches increases."

Dr Susannah Thorpe, from the University of Birmingham's School of Biosciences, added: "Orangutans have developed a unique way of coping with these problems; they move in an irregular way which includes upright walking, four-limbed suspension from branches and tree-swaying, whereby they move branches backwards and forwards, with increasing magnitude, until they are able to cross large gaps between trees."

The team studied orangutans in Sumatra, where the animal is predicted to be the first great ape to become extinct. This new research could further understanding into the way orangutans use their habitat, which could support new conservation programmes.

Dr Thorpe continued: "If the destruction of forest land does not slow down, the Sumatran orangutan could be extinct within the next decade. Now that we know more about how they move through the trees and the unique way that they adapt to challenges in their environment we can better understand their needs. This could help with reintroducing rescued animals to the forests and efforts to conserve their environment."

The research is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Liverpool. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Liverpool. "Orangutans Unique In Movement Through Tree Tops." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 October 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090727191908.htm>.
University of Liverpool. (2009, October 13). Orangutans Unique In Movement Through Tree Tops. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090727191908.htm
University of Liverpool. "Orangutans Unique In Movement Through Tree Tops." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090727191908.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins