Comparative Pathology of Aging Great Apes: Bonobos, Chimpanzees, Gorillas, and Orangutans

Linda J Lowenstine, R. McManamon, K. A. Terio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans) are our closest relatives. Despite the many similarities, there are significant differences in aging among apes, including the human ape. Common to all are dental attrition, periodontitis, tooth loss, osteopenia, and arthritis, although gout is uniquely human and spondyloarthropathy is more prevalent in apes than humans. Humans are more prone to frailty, sarcopenia, osteoporosis, longevity past reproductive senescence, loss of brain volume, and Alzheimer dementia. Cerebral vascular disease occurs in both humans and apes. Cardiovascular disease mortality increases in aging humans and apes, but coronary atherosclerosis is the most significant type in humans. In captive apes, idiopathic myocardial fibrosis and cardiomyopathy predominate, with arteriosclerosis of intramural coronary arteries. Similar cardiac lesions are occasionally seen in wild apes. Vascular changes in heart and kidneys and aortic dissections in gorillas and bonobos suggest that hypertension may be involved in pathogenesis. Chronic kidney disease is common in elderly humans and some aging apes and is linked with cardiovascular disease in orangutans. Neoplasms common to aging humans and apes include uterine leiomyomas in chimpanzees, but other tumors of elderly humans, such as breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers, are uncommon in apes. Among the apes, chimpanzees have been best studied in laboratory settings, and more comparative research is needed into the pathology of geriatric zoo-housed and wild apes. Increasing longevity of humans and apes makes understanding aging processes and diseases imperative for optimizing quality of life in all the ape species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)250-276
Number of pages27
JournalVeterinary Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • aging
  • bonobo
  • chimpanzee
  • geriatrics
  • gorilla
  • great ape
  • nonhuman primate
  • orangutan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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