Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Most primates are big, conspicuous animals. They're often very hard to observe in a thick forest, but they're usually noisy and social, and tend to leave a lot of evidence of their presence. So it's always a bit exciting when a new species is discovered, like the Arunachal Macaque (Macaca munzala), discovered in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh two years ago. Madagascar has yielded as many as six new species of lemur in the past few years, but the last new primate genus, as far as I know, was named in 1923 for the monotypic Allen's Monkey (Allenopithecus nigroviridis) of Central Africa.

The last institution I'd expect the identification of a new primate genus from is probably the University of Alaska, but they've released the word that that's exactly what they've done. Last year the discovery of a new monkey was announced from the mountains of western Tanzania. Thought to be a species of mangabey (Cercocebus spp.), it looks very much like a member of that genus (see photo below), in fact, many authorities were not convinced that it represented a new species. Samples from a dead specimen were sent to the lab in Alaska, where it was discovered the animal was more closely related to the baboons of the genus Papio (see painting above). The monkey has been christened Rungwecebus kipunji, after Mt. Rungwe, where it was found. (Thanks, Afarensis.)Just another reminder of how much we still don't know about the world around us. It was only 14 years ago that a new genus of ox, Pseudoryx, was found in the mountains near the Viet Nam/Laos border. These surprising events make the news, but very few of us hear about the dozens of new frogs, fish, shrews, bats and other less conspicuous critters that are identified each year--and the invertebrates--not even the experts can keep up with the new invertebrates.

Moving from the exciting to the ridiculous, a vaguely related new study finds that alcohol affects monkeys in ways similar to humans. Anyone who thinks this is news should take a look here and especially here.
lower: Photograph of Rungwecebus kipunji by Tim Davenport


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seem to remember rumors of "giant chimpanzees" with gorilla-esque behavior, a purported new ape species, lurking somewhere in the Congo. Did they ultimately turn out to be aberrant chimps? I'm reasonably sure that I'm not just remembering the plot of a Michael Crichton novel.

A battery of new-to-science troglodytes (not Pan) were rustled up in caves in the southern Sierra Nevada recently:
New Cave Species
Inverts of course. If only cryptophiles didn't obsess over large vertebrates

10:11 PM  
Blogger Carel Brest van Kempen said...

Hi Neil. I'm afraid that giant chimp story passed me by. I wish I could say the same for the Michael Chrichton novel. Thanks for yet another good link. I don't think there are any cryptophiles with the time to obsess over invertebrates.

9:20 AM  

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