Of the living great apes, humans are most closely related to the chimpanzees and bonobos. We retain quite a few features from that side of the simian family, and it got me thinking about what a humanoid derived from the Orangutan family would be like.

So for my project there is a race that is as related to orangutans as we are to bonobos. How plausible are these features?


•Arms are much longer than those of a human, being slightly longer than the legs.

•The wrists are capable of significantly greater rotation than humans due to the orangutan ancestry.

•Significantly greater strength than humans. While not as strong as an orangutan, a male is about three times stronger than a human male.

•Shorter legs and significantly inferior distance runners to humans.

•They spend much of their time resting in order to conserve their strength. They are herbivores.

•As intelligent as humans.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ All of those are features our chimp-like ancestors already had which humans evolved AWAY from, switching to orangutan instead of chimp won't change that. You are better off asking how to get alternative humans with those features. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ You have described chimpazeed fine. Where do the orangutans come in? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ @John Alright then, how do I get a human with the superior strength, arm length and super rotating wrists? $\endgroup$
    – user71781
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 1:54
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    $\begingroup$ the last tow is just a case of staying arboreal instead of becoming curatorial. strength is either a case of better leverage or giving up fine motor skills depending on how strong you want them. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 2:19

1 Answer 1


TLDR; Unlikely two distinct intelligent races will evolve to begin with. And most of your traits would be evolved away from.

It would pay to look into the difference between Neanderthals and modern humans. They do come from a common ancestor as opposed to what is described in your question, but over the years neanderthals developed quite different distinctive traits, not unlike the ones you described. There are a fair number of reasons these traits did not stay, and the modern human evolved. I will list a few for you:

Strength is no longer desirable when intelligence is a stronger trait.

The neanderthals possessed near-ape like strength, but were still hunted to extinction by the "weaker" modern humans, mainly through the use of tools. Physical strength is no longer necessary when a tool can be used to achieve the same goal. Especially a race which is as strong as you describe would definitely need a fair amount of physical activity to keep that strength. If they evolved to be intelligent and could get away with lazing off all day to conserve strength, the desire and need to "Work out" would go quite quickly, and the strength along with it. For example: the strength and mobility to climb an apple tree will eventually be useless if you can just whack the apples out with a long stick, so why still climb the tree?

Endurance over mobility.

The reason modern humans were such effective hunters is because they had such high endurance. They would simply track and tire their prey for days. While the prey could use short bursts of strength or speed to get away, due to their intelligence they could track the prey by their footprints and the like, they would just try again later. This makes any mobility traits like you described undesirable. Please also note that Orangutans aren't entirely herbivores, and unless availability for any one food source would disappear completely, it would be improbable a species would evolve away from the ability to eat food sources. It is said that large parts of our intelligence has involved due to the ability to adapt to any living environment, and plant-based life is simply not available everywhere, so an omnivorous diet would be much, much more desirable.

Your traits are only useful in a forest environment

Most of your traits have evolved for mobility in the forest. If your entire world is covered in forests, then that's no problem, but part of the reason we evolved our intelligence is (as mentioned before) to adapt to different environments. If there is no need to adapt to different environments because forests full of food are readily available, then the need for intelligence and adaptability is not necessary. Hence why modern Orangutans are as smart as they are.

Humans are extremely competitive

You don't mention this specifically in your question, but if you want these to coexist with humans, this is extremely unlikely. The main reason two races of same intelligence could not co-evolve like that is because of the human desire to be the best. One species would simply eradicate the other (as has happened with the Neanderthals). Optional interbreeding (if compatible), could take place, but one race would either be absorbed or eradicated at a much earlier stage than modern society.

Please also note, that while we might be most related to modern bonobos and chimpanzees, the ancestor we evolved from would have been extremely different, as chimpanzees did not stop evolving at that point either. So it is very likely Orangutans and Chimpanzees were not at all that different back then, and if one were to evolve towards modern humans, there wouldn't be a reason for that to happen again without using the already developed new genome.

  • $\begingroup$ It does seem that Orangutangs could evolve into a tree-dwellers, while humans populate open land (savannah, prarie, steppe). Humans cannot invade forests because Orangutangs throw rocks at them from the trees, but cannot attack humans in the plains. $\endgroup$
    – Bald Bear
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ @BaldBear, you would be surprised how little throwables are available up in the tree tops. Rocks are generally on the floor. With how flammable forests are, it would be fairly easy still for humans to eradicate the species. Especially if they didn't like them. $\endgroup$
    – Plutian
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ Coconuts, dead branches, rocks carried up preventively (they also hunt animals). Also their urine and excrement can be used as chemical weapons, to avoid any resemblance to the elf archetype :) $\endgroup$
    – Bald Bear
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Plutian Disregard issues of competition, the humans and the orangutan men evolved on separate continents, and they came from an extremely forested one at that $\endgroup$
    – user71781
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 1:52
  • $\begingroup$ Human actually traded strength for control, our muscle recruitment is different than chimps giving us much more precision and endurance at the cost of maximum strength. You can make humans with great strength at the cost of giving them the fine motor skills of a child. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 2:19

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