Thursday, May 11, 2006
Mother Nature: Ironic in Tooth and Claw
Newly Discovered Monkey Rates Own Genus
WASHINGTON May 11, 2006 (AP)— A recently discovered type of African monkey is different enough from others that it needs to be listed in a separate genus, scientists have decided.
The monkey, which lives in Tanzania, was first described last year. At that time it was listed in the genus Lophocebus, which includes the mangabey.
After further study, researchers now say the monkey known as kipunji is more closely related to some types of baboon than to mangabeys, though it is anatomically different from baboons, and thus should have its own genus.
A research team led by Tim R. B. Davenport of the Wildlife Conservation Society suggests in the Science Express that kipunji should be placed in the newly created genus Rungwecebus.
It is the first new genus for an African primate in 83 years. The name refers to Mt. Rungwe, where this type of monkey was first seen.
Several kipunji have been observed and one was studied at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago after it was killed in a farmer's trap. The animal was about 15 inches long and weighed about nine pounds.
It has light to medium gray-brown fur, with white toward the end of the tail and off-white fur on the belly.
The researchers said kipunji is threatened by habitat fragmentation and hunting.
Genus and species are scientific descriptive terms used to classify plants and animals. For example, people are Homo sapiens genus Homo, species sapiens.
The most general classification is kingdom, followed by phylum, class, order, family, genus, species and subspecies.
N.B.: The only reason we have learned about this critter is because we have endangered it.
Today, by the way, is the official "Endangered Species Day," the first of its kind.