Orangutans – recently discovered to share 97% of our genetics, more than chimps* – can take up to 30 years to become fully mature as males.
When male orangutans hit puberty, they develop distinct traits known as secondary sex characteristics that separate them from females. In addition to being much bigger, males grow longer, shaggier hair on their arms and back and sport giant cheek pads. They also have throat pouches that resemble large double chins, allowing males to beckon females with loud long calls.
Now, I immediately think, human facial hair, chiseled facial features, broad shoulders. However, some male orangutans do not enter this stage of expressing visible signs of sexual maturity, despite that they are in fact able to reproduce. The benefit of this comes from the sexual dynamics of the orangutan species.
In Sumatra, a female prefers to mate with the dominant male that lives in her neck of the woods. This male always has his full set of male features. A female finds the dominant male by following the sound of his long call, and when she’s ready to be pregnant, the two enjoy a sort of honeymoon—traveling and mating together for up to three weeks. Other adult-looking males may live in the same area, but females actively avoid their calls and stay hidden from them.
Because the dominant male is so popular, he can be choosy about mates. These males tend to pass over inexperienced females who haven’t yet had a baby. With younger adult females, it’s hard to tell if they are truly ready to become mothers, so it’s a better bet to stick with females who are already moms.
What this means, is that big daddy George Clooney-orangutan** circa Syriana has a monopoly on getting girls to come to him. Since Clooney only wants mature orangutans, the rejected females get swept up by males seen as unthreatening by the alpha-ape because they don’t have orangutan cheek hair and big throats. Yet, these slick orangutans are able to reproduce with the rejected females.
Anyways, if anyone wants to hammer this home, I’m in a vulnerable place re: shaving. I’m already partially convinced. Sidenote: the article does mention the “arrested development” orangutans as getting a little bit more rapey than the dominant males, so… we can put that in the con- column. Of shaving… Yeesh.
*Here’s the link for this, but I couldn’t disambiguate exactly that orangutans are more related to us than chimps. But I think that’s what this data means. Call me out if I’m wrong.
**Redundant. Hah, I know. I’m fucking clever as shit.