Portal:Primates

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A primate is a member of the biological order Primates, the group that contains lemurs, the aye-aye, lorisids, galagos, tarsiers, monkeys, and apes, with the last category including great apes. With the exception of humans, who inhabit every continent on Earth, most primates live in tropical or subtropical regions of the Americas, Africa and Asia. Primates range in size from the 30-gram (1 oz) pygmy mouse lemur to the 200-kilogram (440 lb) mountain gorilla. According to fossil evidence, the primitive ancestors of primates may have existed in the late Cretaceous period around 65 mya (million years ago), and the oldest known primate is the Late Paleocene Plesiadapis, c. 55–58 mya. Molecular clock studies suggest that the primate branch may be even older, originating in the mid-Cretaceous period around 85 mya.

Primates exhibit a wide range of characteristics. Some primates do not live primarily in trees, but all species possess adaptations for climbing trees. Locomotion techniques used include leaping from tree to tree, walking on two or four limbs, knuckle-walking, and swinging between branches of trees (known as brachiation). Primates are characterized by their large brains relative to other mammals. These features are most significant in monkeys and apes, and noticeably less so in lorises and lemurs. Many species are sexually dimorphic, which means males and females have different physical traits, including body mass, canine tooth size, and coloration.

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Orang Utan, Semenggok Forest Reserve, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia.JPG
Orangutans are the two exclusively Asian species of extant great apes. Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, orangutans are currently found only in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. Classified in the genus Pongo, orangutans were considered to be one species. However, since 1996, they were divided into two species: the Bornean orangutan (P. pygmaeus) and the Sumatran orangutan (P. abelii). In addition, the Bornean species is divided into three subspecies. The orangutans are also the only surviving species of the subfamily Ponginae. Both species had their genomes sequenced and they appear to have diverged around 400,000 years ago. Orangutans diverged from the rest of the great apes approximately 15.7 to 19.3 mya (million years ago).

Orangutans are the most arboreal great apes and spend most of their time in trees. Their hair is typically reddish-brown, instead of the brown or black hair typical of chimpanzees and gorillas. Males and females differ in size and appearance. Dominant adult males have distinctive cheek pads and produce long calls that attract females and intimidate rivals. Younger males do not have these characteristics and resemble adult females. Orangutans are the most solitary of the great apes, with social bonds occurring primarily between mothers and their dependent offspring, who stay together for the first two years. Fruit is the most important component of an orangutan's diet, however, the apes will also eat vegetation, bark, honey, insects and even bird eggs. They can live over 30 years. Orangutans are among the most intelligent primates and use a variety of sophisticated tools, also constructing elaborate sleeping nests each night from branches and foliage. Both orangutan species are considered to be Endangered with the Sumatran orangutan being Critically Endangered. Threats to wild orangutan populations include poaching, habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade.

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The brown spider monkey, Ateles hybridus, is a species of spider monkey, a type of New World monkey, from South America. It is found in Colombia and Venezuela. Like all spider monkeys, it has very long, spindly limbs and a lengthy prehensile tail which can almost be called a fifth limb. The tail is made up of highly flexible, hairless tips with skin grooves which improves grip on tree branches and is adapted to its strictly arboreal lifestyle. It is currently critically endangered, with few examples of them remaining in the wild.

Primates News

Archives: 2009

2009

August

  • August 4 - Orangutans may be going deep to deter predators, and some are even using tools to sound more intimidating, a new study says. Read more
  • August 3 - The most malignant known form of malaria may have jumped from chimpanzees to humans, according to a new study of one of the most deadly diseases in the world. Read more

July

  • July 28 - Mani the monkey uses her own mysterious methods to tend dozens of goats without any supervision or training, according to the Associated Press. Read more
  • July 8 - Monkeys can form sentences and speak in accents—and now a new study shows that our genetic relatives can also recognize poor grammar. Read more

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Saguinus oedipus (Cotton-top tamarin)
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Critically Endangered (IUCN 3.1)|Critically endangered

The cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) is a small New World monkey weighing less than 1 lb (0.5 kg). One of the smallest primates, the cotton-top tamarin is easily recognized by the long white sagittal crest extending from its forehead to its shoulders. The species is found in tropical forest edges and secondary forests in northwestern Colombia where it is arboreal and diurnal. Its diet includes insects and plant exudates and it is an important seed disperser in the tropical ecosystem. Groups form a clear dominance hierarchy where only dominant pairs breed. The female normally gives birth to twins and uses pheromones to prevent other females in the group from breeding. These tamarins have been extensively studied for their high level of cooperative care, as well as altruistic and spiteful behaviors. Communication between cotton-top tamarins is sophisticated and shows evidence of grammatical structure, which is acquired.

It is thought that up to 40,000 cotton-top tamarins were caught and exported for use in biomedical research before 1976 when CITES gave them the highest level of protection and all international trade was banned. Now the species is at risk due to large-scale habitat destruction, the lowland forest in northwestern Colombia where the cotton-top tamarin is found has been reduced to five percent of its previous size. It is currently classified as critically endangered and is one of the rarest primates in the world with only 6,000 individuals left in the wild.

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