Image from Steve Bowers

Apes are Terragen primates that anatomically resemble and are closely related to humans. Common usage still preserves an ancient human baseline bias, by which the term does not include humans and closely related bipedal forms. In contrast, zoologists and some nonhuman clades, use the same term for humans and all other ape species. Australopithecine hominids, the first bipedal apes, and the ancestors of human baselines, diverged from other African apes in the late Miocene. The original nonhuman apes included the gorilla, chimpanzees, bonobo, and orangutan, (the so-called great apes; together with humans in family Hominidae) and the siamang and the various species of gibbon (family Hylobatidae). All were originally native to the tropical regions of Old Earth's Africa and Asia.

When human baselines first arose, the number of ape species was already at an all-time low due to competition from monkeys and due to the relative shortage of tropical rainforest habitat in the relatively cold and dry climate of the Pleistocene. The rise of human civilization meant the further decline of ape populations both by competition and by direct predation. Poaching, human overpopulation, and habitat destruction brought about the extinction of all terragen apes in the wild during the early Information Age. Gene banks and captive breeding programs promised a tenuous continuity for all the baseline species, albeit with a greatly narrowed gene pool and the near-extinction of the species' original subsophont cultures. During the late Information Age and early Interplanetary Age, when the survival of nonhuman ape species outside institutions was looking increasingly unlikely, various provolution experiments were performed on all the ape species. Some hoped that with sapience they would acquire citizenship and "human" (or anthropoid) rights for all nonhuman apes (something which until that date had been achieved in only a handful of polities). The first species to be provolved was the bonobo (Pan paniscus), by Dr. Sally Tanenhaus. Researchers backed by rival corporations got into the act, and by the end of the 2nd century a.t. all the species had been provolved, some several times, due to rivalry between various corporations or institutes.

At first, sophont ape clades were rarely successful outside protected enclaves, though some sapientchimps found regular employment in space. Despite their human-equivalent or even superhuman intelligence, and despite some physical advantages over human baselines and nearbaselines in microgravity (where their arboreal adaptations were a definite asset) apes were often misfits in the predominantly human society of the times unless they were also provolved to match human behavioural norms. Some later generations did make such fundamental adjustments, but the results were, as one sapientbonobo commentator put it, "just hairy humans". Many apes ended up as celebrity pets of the idle rich, or became successful film and virch stars with revival of the reality VRcam industry in the late 2nd century, and again in the mid 3rd century. A number of the neo-gorillas (Gorilla gorilla sapiens) were introduced into the building industry, or worked as bouncers and bodyguards, although this was largely for novelty value. They were soon displaced in these roles by the Goliaths, who were better suited by natural temperament to such tasks.

Some disenfranchised space chimps, resentful of human interference and manipulation, set up their own societies, and became increasingly associated with the Jovian League and (from the early 4th century onwards) the Hiders. Representatives of all sophont ape species survived the Nanoswarms (by the 5th century all provolve species had established good breeding populations in the outer solar system), and many further clades, and some interesting hybrids and neogens, developed during the "dark age" that followed. Throughout the late 9th and early 10th centuries, many were ready to join the First Federation, although others remained reclusive, and some had long since migrated outsystem. Of those who remained, many became affiliated in one way or another with the Institute For Primate Provolution.

By the later Federation period some sophont apes were happily assimilated into Terragen culture, although others tended to be more reclusive and preferred isolated habitats. Cladized descendents of pre-Federation Age ape provolve species can be found throughout much of settled space, although the original provolve species are now rare, and some are believed extinct. Some original provolves survive in forest habitat ghettos or protected enclaves throughout the outer Sol System and a few of the other old and inner core worlds (Barnard Belt, Sirius system). Like baseline humans they are terribly disadvantaged in the modern galaxy, and survive only through acts of kindness on the part of their descendents, or by organisations like the Institute for Original Provolve Preservation, and the odd hyperturing philanthropist. The Institute for Primate Provolution has extended its protection to many such relic populations, but archaic ape clades under the IPP's wing tend, like the IPP's protected human baseline groups, to self-provolve into a more advanced clade within a few generations; these populations survive only through their descendants and in the IPP's extensive cultural and genetic records.

Elements of the genome from all of the baseline ape species are found in many human clades, particularly those of spacers. In some regions the line between human nearbaseline subclades and provolved apes is rather blurred; the Fran are a good example of this phenomenon.

Current status of Baseline Apes: It is almost certain that GAIA has restored baseline apes, as She has many other species eliminated by man. However, while tourists and pilgrims have reported sighting such creatures in the forests of Earth, these reports have never been confirmed and are sometimes found to be hoaxes generated by mischievous Children of Gaia. GAIA and her minions, for reasons best known to themselves, steadfastly refuse all direct information on the topic of Old Earth's "wild" apes. However, small populations of lazurogenic baseline apes were established from public domain genome databases in several zoo-orbitals has early as the First Federation. The most extensive planetary populations of baseline apes are those maintained by the Institute for Primate Provolution at Ao Lai, all based on the species in their original Cache (and possibly on exchanges with whatever genetic sources GAIA may have used). With the exception of the hypothetical Old Earth populations, the IPP's baseline apes are believed to be truest to the originals in their genetic profile and their behavioural repertoire.

The original baseline species are greatly outnumbered by the many new subsophont species that have been created since. These include "lazurogened" prehistoric apes of varying degrees of authenticity (see, for instance, Gigantopithecus), the numerous species created in imitation of fictional or mythic apes (Yeti and Sasquatch creations have been particularly popular), and (most numerous of all) the hundreds of entirely novel ape species created to stock the wilder portions of forest or orwood habitats.

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Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Stephen Inniss

Initially published on 10 September 2005.