Definitions

Gibbon

Gibbon

[gib-uhn]
Gibbon, Edward, 1737-94, English historian, author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. His childhood was sickly, and he had little formal education but read enormously and omnivorously. He went at the age of 15 to Oxford, but was forced to leave because of his conversion to Roman Catholicism. His father sent him (1753) to Lausanne, where he was formally reconverted to Protestantism. Actually, he became a skeptic and later greatly offended the pious by his famous chapters of historical criticism of Christianity in his great work. In Lausanne he fell in love with the penniless daughter of a pastor, Suzanne Curchod (who was later to be the great intellectual, Mme Necker). The two were engaged to be married, but Gibbon's father refused consent. Gibbon "sighed as a lover" but "obeyed as a son" and gave up the match. He left Lausanne in 1758. It was on a visit to Rome that he conceived the idea of his magnificent and panoramic history. This appeared as The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (6 vol., 1776-88) and won immediate acclaim, despite some harsh criticism. Gibbon himself was assured of the greatness of his work, which is, indeed, one of the most-read historical works of modern times. He entered upon a short and highly inglorious political career, serving as a member of Parliament from 1774 to 1783. He violently opposed the American Revolution, although later he was to look with favor on the more radical French Revolution. In 1783 he withdrew to Lausanne, where he completed his masterpiece. His own Memoirs of His Life and Writings, commonly called the Autobiography, first appeared in a heavily bowderlized form in the edition of his miscellaneous works by Lord Sheffield in 1796 (repr. 1959). The autobiography is, however, one of the most subtle and interesting works of its kind in English. An edition of Gibbon's original six drafts appeared as The Autobiographies in 1896. A new edition, edited by G. A. Bonnard, was published in 1969 (Am. ed.). Editions of the Decline and Fall are legion. The modern standard edition is that of J. B. Bury (7 vol., 1896-1900).

See his collected letters (ed. by J. E. Norton, 3 vol., 1956); biographies by J. W. Swain (1966), G. De Beer (1968), P. B. Craddock (1982, 1988), and J. W. Burrow (1985); studies by D. P. Jordan (1971) and R. N. Parkinson (1974).

Gibbon, John, 1827-96, Union general in the Civil War, b. near Holmesburg (now part of Philadelphia), Pa., grad. West Point, 1847. Made a brigadier general of volunteers (1862), he fought in the second battle of Bull Run, at South Mt., at Antietam, and in the Wilderness campaign (1864). After the war he fought in the Indian wars in the West. He commanded one of the columns that moved against the Sioux in 1876. The next year he fought an inconclusive battle with the Nez Percés at Big Hole in W Montana. He wrote Personal Recollections of the Civil War, which was published posthumously in 1928.
gibbon, small ape, genus Hyloblates, found in the forests of SE Asia. The gibbons, including the siamang, are known as the small, or lesser, apes; they are the most highly adapted of the apes to arboreal life. Gibbons are about 3 ft (90 cm) tall and weigh about 15 lb (6.4 kg). Their arms are extremely long in proportion to their body length, and they swing through the trees with great speed and agility, clearing gaps up to 20 ft (6 m) wide. On the ground they walk on two feet, holding their arms up awkwardly; they can also run on all fours. Members of most gibbon species have black faces surrounded by a white ruff; their fur ranges in color from black to buff. Some species, e.g., white-handed gibbon, have sexual dimorphism in coloration. Like Old World monkeys and unlike other apes, gibbons have callosities on their buttocks. Gibbons live in permanent families consisting of a male, a female, and their young; families occupy definite territories. They feed on fruits and other plant matter as well as insects and other small animals. Gibbons have powerful voices and at times engage in loud howling, which is answered by other gibbons in the vicinity. The largest gibbon is the siamang, sometimes classified in a separate genus, Symphalangus. Deep black, with a reddish brown face, the siamang may weigh up to 25 lb (11.3 kg). Siamangs are further distinguished by the presence in both sexes of a large vocal sac on the throat; this sac is inflated before the animal howls and probably functions to magnify the sound. Such a sac is also found in the male concolor gibbon (Hyloblates concolor). Siamangs are found in the high mountain forests of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. The gibbons are highly endangered because of habitat destruction. Gibbons are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Primates, family Pongidae.

Gibbons (family Hylobatidae).

Any of about six species (genus Hylobates) of lesser apes (family Hylobatidae), found in Indo-Malayan forests. Gibbons use their long arms to swing from branch to branch. They walk erect on the ground, live in small groups, and feed on shoots and fruits, as well as on some insects, birds' eggs, and young birds. They have long hair and are about 16–26 in. (40–65 cm) long. Their coats vary from tan or silvery to brown or black. They have large canine teeth, and their voices are noted for their volume, musical quality, and carrying power.

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(born March 20, 1796, London, Eng.—died May 16, 1862, Wellington, N.Z.) British colonizer of South Australia and New Zealand. After viewing the problems of the penal system, including the forcible removal of convicts to British colonies, he wrote A Letter from Sydney (1829) and proposed colonization by the sale of small landholdings to ordinary citizens. He influenced the founding of South Australia as a nonconvict settlement. As organizer and manager of the New Zealand Company (1838–58), he sent colonists to settle New Zealand and forced the British government to recognize the colony. As an adviser to the earl of Durham, he influenced the report that led to the union of Upper and Lower Canada. He founded a Church of England settlement at Canterbury, N.Z. (1847).

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(born May 8, 1737, Putney, Surrey, Eng.—died Jan. 16, 1794, London) British historian. Educated at the University of Oxford and in Switzerland, Gibbon wrote his early works in French. In London he became a member of Samuel Johnson's brilliant intellectual circle. On a trip to Rome he was inspired to write the history of the city. His Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 6 vol. (1776–88), is a continuous narrative from the 2nd century AD to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Though Gibbon's conclusions have been modified by later scholars, his acumen, historical perspective, and superb literary style have given his work its lasting reputation as one of the greatest historical works.

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(born March 20, 1796, London, Eng.—died May 16, 1862, Wellington, N.Z.) British colonizer of South Australia and New Zealand. After viewing the problems of the penal system, including the forcible removal of convicts to British colonies, he wrote A Letter from Sydney (1829) and proposed colonization by the sale of small landholdings to ordinary citizens. He influenced the founding of South Australia as a nonconvict settlement. As organizer and manager of the New Zealand Company (1838–58), he sent colonists to settle New Zealand and forced the British government to recognize the colony. As an adviser to the earl of Durham, he influenced the report that led to the union of Upper and Lower Canada. He founded a Church of England settlement at Canterbury, N.Z. (1847).

Learn more about Wakefield, Edward Gibbon with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born May 8, 1737, Putney, Surrey, Eng.—died Jan. 16, 1794, London) British historian. Educated at the University of Oxford and in Switzerland, Gibbon wrote his early works in French. In London he became a member of Samuel Johnson's brilliant intellectual circle. On a trip to Rome he was inspired to write the history of the city. His Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 6 vol. (1776–88), is a continuous narrative from the 2nd century AD to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Though Gibbon's conclusions have been modified by later scholars, his acumen, historical perspective, and superb literary style have given his work its lasting reputation as one of the greatest historical works.

Learn more about Gibbon, Edward with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Gibbons are the small apes in the family Hylobatidae. The family is divided into four genera based on their diploid chromosome number: Hylobates (44), Hoolock (38), Nomascus (52), and Symphalangus (50). The extinct Bunopithecus sericus is a gibbon or gibbon-like ape which, until recently, was thought to be closely related to the Hoolock gibbons. Gibbons occur in tropical and subtropical rainforests from northeast India to Indonesia and north to southern China, including the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Java.

Also called the lesser apes, gibbons differ from great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and humans) in being smaller and pair-bonded, in not making nests, and in certain anatomical details in which they superficially more closely resemble monkeys than great apes do. Gibbons are masters of their primary mode of locomotion, brachiation, swinging from branch to branch distances of up to 15 m (50 ft), at speeds as much as 56 km/h (35 mph). They can also make leaps of up to 8 m (27 ft), and walk bipedally with their arms raised for balance. They are the fastest and most agile of all tree-dwelling, non-flying mammals.

Depending on species and gender, gibbon's fur coloration varies from dark to light brown shades, and anywhere in between black and white. It is rare to see a completely white gibbon.

Anatomy

One unique aspect of gibbon physiology is that the wrist is composed of a ball and socket joint, allowing for biaxial movement. This greatly reduces the amount of energy needed in the upper arm and torso, while also reducing stress on the shoulder joint. They also have long hands and feet, with a deep cleft between the first and second digits of their hands. Their fur is usually black, gray, or brownish, often with white markings on hands, feet, and face. Some species have an enlarged throat sac, which inflates and serves as a resonating chamber when the animals call. This structure is enormous in a few species, equaling the size of the animal's head.

Gibbon skulls resemble those of great apes, with very short rostra, enlarged braincases, and large orbits that face forward. Gibbons have the typical nose of catarrhine primates with nostrils that are close together and face forward and slightly downward. They lack cheek pouches and their stomach is not sacculated. Their teeth also are similar to the great apes, with molars that are bunodont and lack lophs. The upper molars usually have a cingulum, which is sometimes large. The canines are prominent but not sexually dimorphic. The dental formula is:

Behavior

Gibbons are social animals. They are strongly territorial, and defend their boundaries with vigorous visual and vocal displays. The vocal element, which can often be heard for distances of up to 1 km, consists of a duet between a mated pair, their young sometimes joining in. In most species males, and in some also females, sing solos that attract mates as well as advertise their territory. The songs can make them an easy find for poachers who engage in the illegal wildlife trade and in sales of body parts for use in traditional medicine.

The gibbons' ball-and-socket joints allow them unmatched speed and accuracy when swinging through trees. Nonetheless, their mode of transportation can lead to hazards when a branch breaks or a hand slips, and researchers estimate that the majority of Gibbons fracture their bones one or more times during their lifetimes.

Status

Most species are threatened or endangered, most importantly from degradation or loss of their forest habitat. Gibbon species include the Siamang, the White-handed or Lar Gibbon, and the hoolock gibbons. The Siamang, which is the largest of the 13 species, is distinguished by having two fingers on each hand stuck together, hence the generic and species names Symphalangus and syndactylus.

Classification

Hybrids

Many gibbons are hard to identify based on fur coloration and are identified either by song or genetics. These morphological ambiguities have led to hybrids in zoos. Zoos often receive gibbons of unknown origin and therefore rely on morphological variation or labels that are impossible to verify to assign species and subspecies names so it is common for separate species of gibbons to be misidentified and housed together. Interspecific hybrids, hybrids within a genus, also occur in wild gibbons where the ranges overlap.

References

External links

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