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Am J Primatol. 2005 Apr;65(4):353-76.

Developmental changes in the facial morphology of the Borneo orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus): possible signals in visual communication.

Author information

1
Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan. nyasuno@bio.titech.ac.jp

Abstract

Orangutans display remarkable developmental changes and sexual differences in facial morphology, such as the flanges or cheek-pads that develop only on the face of dominant adult males. These changes suggest that facial morphology is an important factor in visual communication. However, developmental changes in facial morphology have not been examined in detail. We studied developmental changes in the facial morphology of the Borneo orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) by observing 79 individuals of various ages living in the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) in Malaysia and in Japanese zoos. We also analyzed photographs of one captive male that were taken over a period of more than 16 years. There were clear morphological changes that occurred with growth, and we identified previously unreported sexual and developmental differences in facial morphology. Light-colored skin around the eyes and mouth is most prominent in animals younger than 3 years, and rapidly decreases in area through the age of approximately 7 years. At the same time, the scattered, erect hairs on the head (infant hair) become thick, dense hairs lying on the head (adult hair) in both sexes. The results suggest that these features are infant signals, and that adult signals may include darkened face color, adult hair, whiskers, and a beard, which begin to develop after the age of approximately 7 years in both sexes. In females, the eyelids remain white even after 10 years, and turn black at around the age of 20; in males, the eyelids turn black before the age of 10. The whiskers and beards of adults are thicker in males than in females, and are fully developed before the age of 10 in males, while they begin to develop in females only after approximately 20 years. White eyelids and undeveloped whiskers and beards may be visual signals that are indicative of young adult females. Our results also show that the facial morphology of the unflanged male is similar to that of the adult female, although it has also been pointed out that unflanged males resemble younger individuals.

PMID:
15834889
DOI:
10.1002/ajp.20121
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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