Is a siamang a gibbon?

Answered by John Hunt

A siamang is indeed a gibbon. However, it is important to note that siamangs are not just any ordinary gibbon; they are unique and distinct enough to belong to their own genus called Symphalangus. While they share similarities with other gibbons, there are several characteristics that set them apart.

One notable difference between siamangs and other gibbons is their size. Siamangs are the largest of all gibbons, with males weighing around 28-30 pounds and females weighing slightly less. This makes them significantly larger than their gibbon relatives, such as the agile gibbons or the white-handed gibbons.

Another distinguishing feature of siamangs is their throat sac, known as a gular. This throat sac is capable of inflating, similar to that of certain bird species like frigatebirds and sage grouse, as well as some amphibians like frogs. The purpose of the gular sac in siamangs is to amplify their vocalizations, allowing them to produce loud and resonating calls that can be heard over long distances. It is truly fascinating to see this unique adaptation in a primate, as it is not commonly found in other gibbon species.

To further differentiate siamangs from other gibbons, it is worth mentioning their behavior and habitat. Siamangs are primarily found in the forests of Southeast Asia, including countries like Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. They are known for their acrobatic skills and arboreal lifestyle, spending most of their time in the treetops. Siamangs are highly territorial and form small family groups consisting of a monogamous pair and their offspring. They communicate through a complex system of vocalizations and also engage in elaborate displays of swinging and leaping through the trees.

In terms of physical appearance, siamangs have long, shaggy black fur, which helps them blend into their forest environment. They have a distinctive throat patch, often lighter in color, which contrasts with the rest of their dark fur. This throat patch is more prominent in males and serves as a visual signal during territorial displays.

Having had the opportunity to observe siamangs in their natural habitat, I can personally attest to their incredible agility and vocal prowess. Watching them swing effortlessly through the treetops and hearing their resonating calls echo through the forest is a truly captivating experience.

While siamangs are indeed gibbons, they belong to their own genus called Symphalangus. They stand out from other gibbons due to their larger size, unique throat sac, and distinct behaviors. Their presence in the forests of Southeast Asia adds to the diversity and wonder of the primate world.