Reassessment of age of sexual maturity in gibbons (hylobates spp.)


  • Thomas Geissmann

    Corresponding author
    1. Anthropological Institute, Zürich University, Zürich, Switzerland
    • Anthropological Institute, University Zürich-Irchel, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland
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From studies of both wild and captive animals, gibbons are thought to reach sexual maturity at about 6 to 8 years of age, and the siamang (Hylobates syndactylus) at about 8 to 9 years. However, a review of the literature reveals that in most cases the exact age of the maturing animals was not known and had to be estimated. This study presents seven case reports on captive gibbons of known age. Captive males of the white-cheeked crested gibbon (H. leucogenys leucogenys) and of the siamang (H. syndactylus) can breed at the age of 4 and 4.3 years, respectively. Similarly, hybrid females (H. lar × H. moloch) and siamang females can breed at 5.1 and 5.2 years, respectively. This finding may help to improve the breeding success of captive gibbon populations. It is not clear whether gibbons reach sexual maturity earlier in captivity or whether sexual maturity is also reached by 5 years of age in the wild. Possible implications for the interpretation of group size regulation and of reproductive strategies of wild gibbons are discussed.