Pongidae /ˈpɒnɪd/, or the pongids is an obsolete primate taxon containing chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. By this definition pongids were also called "great apes". This taxon is not used today but is of historical significance. The great apes are currently classified as Hominidae. This entry addresses the old usage of pongid.

Temporal range: Late Miocene to Recent
Gorilla in the Bronx Zoo
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Superfamily: Hominoidea
Family: Pongidae
Elliot, 1913

The words "Pongidae" and "pongids" are sometimes used informally for the primate taxon containing orangutans and their extinct fossil relations. For this usage the currently most widely accepted name is Ponginae (or informally Asian hominids or pongines), the orangutan subfamily of the Hominidae or hominids. In current hominid taxonomy there is no “pongid” taxon. The orangutan taxon is now known to be paraphyletic to other (African) hominids. The orangutans are the only surviving species of the subfamily Ponginae, which genetically diverged from the other hominids (gorillas, chimpanzees and humans) between 19.3 and 15.7 million years ago. The subfamilies split somewhat later. The corresponding crown group for this taxon is Hominidae.

Distinction of great apes (formerly pongids) to hominins

Great apes (formerly pongids) Humans[notes 1]
Mode of locomotion Knuckle walking, arboreal Bipedalism
Location of foramen magnum Back of the skull Under the skull
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 great ape (formerly pongid) skull contains the following features that are absent or less pronounced in humans:

Adaptations for locomotion


The following great ape (formerly Pongid) adaptations are for arboreal and knuckle walking locomotion and are not found in humans:

Great ape (formerly pongid} Human
Arms are 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


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

See also



  1. ^ Humans are the only extant Homininans.
  • Science and faith: The hominid fossil record
  • Pongidae - the Great Apes Family
  • Brain endocast asymmetry in pongids