“Death High Five!”
One of our near relatives, Gibbons are Apes (technically the superfamily Hominoidea), along with humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. Apes like to swing through trees, arm-over-arm, like in the old Tarzan movies. Brachiation it’s called. Monkeys, while definitely arboreal, tend to clamber along the branches, using all fours. Ape skeletons reflect this, with our shoulder blades moved back behind our ribs, giving more mobility to the arms. While monkeys’ shoulder blades are located along their sides, better for four-limbed motion. Also for brachiation, apes typically have very long arms. Gibbons still do, but human arms have shortened up, with our erect, bipedal motion.
These gibbons (the live ones) are at the Bronx Zoo, in the Jungle World exhibit. Seeing them is hit or miss. Sometimes they are resting out of sight, deep in the trees. Other times, they are perched quite visibly. These photos include the female (named “Kicks” or “Christine”), the young, and the male (“Milton”).
Gibbons’ genus & species classifications have changed in recent years. As of 2013, White-cheeked gibbons are Nomascus leucogenys. Until the mid 1990s, all gibbons were in genus Hylobates, which included several species and sub-species. Under that old view, White-cheeked gibbons were Hylobates concolor, subspecies leucogenys. After Thomas Geissman’s work, Hylobates was split up, and some subspecies were promoted to full species. Thus Hylobates concolor leucogenys —> Nomascus leucogenys.
According to the NY Times in January, 2013:
The black male is 15 years old, named “Milton.” This photo shows the very long arms of the gibbon.
The tan female, “Christine or Kicks,” is 35.
The young, also tan, but sex so far undetermined, is thus un-named. “According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, all baby gibbons are born with a sandy-colored coat which turns black over their first two years. When they reach sexual maturity, males keep their dark fur while females change back to the buff color.”