May 19, 2005


New Monkey Species Discovered in East Africa (John Roach, May 19, 2005, National Geographic News)

Scientists have discovered a new monkey species in the mountains of East Africa.

The new primate, known as the highland mangabey (Lophocebus kipunji), was identified by two independent research teams working in separate locations in southern Tanzania. [...]

Tim Davenport, a Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) biologist based in Mbeya, Tanzania, led a team that discovered the monkeys. The team found the mangabeys on the flanks of Tanzania's 9,700-foot (2,961-meter) Rungwe volcano and in the adjoining Kitulo National Park.

"A number of things distinguish it [as a distinct species]," he said. "But the key one above all is the call."

As adults, the monkeys emit a loud, low-pitched "honk-bark," which is significantly different from calls made by any other primate, Davenport said.

Which makes the Basques a new species as well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 19, 2005 11:12 PM

Cucamonga Monkeyshines. A Mystery.


I awoke to the sound of a loud, low pitched "honk-bark", which, despite my hangover, I instantly recongnized as being that of Lophocebus kipunji, or highland mangabey monkey. But what was such a creature doing here, outside the window of a cheap motel in Rancho Cucamonga, more than 10,000 miles away from his natural habitat?

Posted by: carter at May 20, 2005 2:36 AM

Does that make Harry Reid a separate species? John Kerry a third one?

Posted by: Steve at May 20, 2005 4:50 AM

Just a simple question - if a species is distinguished by its call, of what conceivable use is the paleontological record in determining species?

Posted by: jd watson at May 20, 2005 4:54 AM

My goodness, they don't seem to realize what they have found. This "honk-bark" is obviously the common ancestor of all the mammals that evolved from honkers to barkers. Darn, or was it barkers to honkers? Haarrreeey!

Posted by: Peter B at May 20, 2005 6:50 AM

Maria Sharapova gets her own species too, I guess.

Posted by: ZF at May 20, 2005 7:08 AM

Then this clearly sets Howard Dean apart: (see also "Aaaaaaaaauuuuugggggghhhhhhhh!!!")

Posted by: John Resnick at May 20, 2005 12:56 PM

The dirty little secret of the "Endangered Species Act" has always been that the definition of species has been arbitrary and varied from species to species. Count the number of spots on a birds wing and if you come up with five instead of six, and you get to attach a name to a new species, one that can stop that logging. Find a squirrel that only eats nuts native only to a small region (because that's the only nut growing tree in that region), and you found the lever you need to stop that development. FInd a fish that has a different shaped fin an the ones in the next stream over, and you can stop a dam.

And it'll continue to be a joke until they come up with an objective, quantifiable definiton based directly on the DNA and not on appearance.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 20, 2005 1:35 PM


You tiptoe towards revelation.

Posted by: oj at May 20, 2005 2:32 PM

Yes, Raoul. Many years ago, I had the "honor" of meeting the man who discovered the montaine skipper butterfly which prevented the Two Forks dam project just southwest of Denver, Colorado. I asked him how he knew he had discovered a new, endangered species, and his reply was "Because I say so."

Posted by: jd watson at May 20, 2005 3:55 PM

Appearance and behavior, raoul.

The DNA method is available and has been for some time, if the legislators and regulators care to adopt it.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at May 20, 2005 4:36 PM


The sole basis of species.

Posted by: oj at May 20, 2005 5:11 PM

"If the legislators and regulators care to adopt it."

I guess I should make myself clear— I'm talking about the biologists themselves. They're the ones who are using these criteria like howls and spots and eating habits. The legislators and regulators are just following the lead of the self-proclaimed Linnean experts. So why do biologists still stick with a system that belongs on the shelf with epicycles, phlogisten and the aether?

And if appearance and behavior matter, then how can you say a blubber eating Alaskan Inuit is the same species as a termite eating Australian Aboriginal or the same specias as a lutefisk eating Norwegian Lutheran? Those differences are a whole lot bigger than how bushy a tail is or the length of a beak.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 20, 2005 7:00 PM

Barring the 20th experience of eugenics and genocide they would call them a different species.

Posted by: oj at May 20, 2005 7:04 PM


You hit the nail on the head. Environmental groups years ago were successfully stopping Southern California highway building and development because such would threaten the 'gnat catcher' (a bird). It then turned out that there were millions of gnat catchers in Mexico, several hundred miles to the south. A problem for the green lobby? Of course not. Before you could say 'voila,' biologists representing the Sierra Club et al. concluded that Mexican gnat catchers were a sub-species different from the Southern Californian 'variant'. Maybe because the south-of-the-border birds warbled in Spanish?

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at May 20, 2005 10:37 PM