There are two differentiated species of orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus abelii and Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus, both of which are considered endangered species. Orangutans are sexually dimorphic, with female weights range from 30 - 50 kg, while males are 50 - 90 kg. Head and body length is about 1.5 meters and the arms have a spread of about 2.2 meters. Orangutans have a thin, shaggy coat that is reddish brown in color. Males have large cheek pads, made up of deposits of subcutaneous fat bound by connective tissue. These cheek pads continue growing for much of an adult male's life. Orangutans have a high, sloping forehead and a bulging snout. They have short, weak hind legs, but strong hands and forelimbs. Typical life span of wild orangutans is 30-45 years. Breeding activity starts at 15 years of age and intervals between births average 8 years, resulting in the largest generation interval among primates. --Excerpts from the Animal Diversity Website at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
Orangutans currently inhabit only the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Fossil evidence indicates that their past distribution included much of Southeast Asia. This primate is only found in various types of forests, from low-level swamps to mountainous areas up to 1.5 km in elevation. Orangutans can be found at various heights in the trees and may move large distances to find trees bearing fruit. Their primary mode of locomotion is using their forelimbs to move adeptly through the tree branches.
The Pongo pygmaeus abelii species will be sequenced in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center (BCM-HGSC). A total of 6x whole genome coverage will be produced from the genome of a female orangutan nicknamed "Susie", who is housed at the Gladys Porter Zoo (Brownsville, TX) and will serve as the reference genome. The proposed approach will combine whole genome shotgun plasmid, fosmid, and BAC end sequences. The WUGSC and BCM-HGSC will jointly produce an orangutan draft sequence assembly. This preliminary sequence assembly will be released to the public, following an internal quality review. While production sequencing is in progress, a fingerprint map will be developed with a target of 12X clone coverage. Funding for the sequence characterization of the orangutan genome is being provided by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), National Institutes of Health (NIH).