May 12, 2006


Tanzanian monkey goes up a notch (Rebecca Morelle, 5/12/06, BBC News)

Scientists have described a new genus of monkey - the first for 83 years.

The Rungwecebus kipunji sports a distinctive Mohawk stripe of hair, and is found in Tanzania, Africa.

The monkey, first described from photographs last year, was originally thought to be a new species but tests reveal it is even more special. [...]

Bill Stanley, an author on the paper, and mammal collections manager at the Field Museum, Chicago, US, said hearing the news that the monkey belonged to a new genus "sent shivers down my spine".

"Simply put, the genetics said that it was closely related to baboons, but the skull wasn't anything like a baboon. The conclusions we drew from the genetic and morphological data meant that it had to be named as a new genus." [...]

Jonathan Kingdon, a biological anthropologist from Oxford University, commented: "The geneticists have shown that the closest relative of this rather slender, mainly tree-dwelling monkey is the hefty, mainly ground-dwelling baboon. Indeed of all the primates known it is the baboon's closest relative.

"The evolution of this unique monkey from a baboon and not a finely tuned lineage that was already 'monkey' offers us a unique opportunity to understand the evolution of monkeys in Africa.

"And the most likely reason for baboon and not monkey ancestry is that the Southern Highlands were separated from the great primate communities of central Africa by Lakes Tanganyika and Rukwa."

But Professor Colin Groves, a biological anthropologist from Australian National University, Canberra, was more cautious about the research.

"I'm not certain if this is a new genus. I'm unsure of the molecular analysis - when I look at the phylogenetic tree (a diagram of the evolutionary relationships of a group of organisms) there are aspects of it that are quite different to those that other people have generated. I would like to see them explore their DNA tree much much more."

What makes the argument especially hilarious is that monkeys can breed with baboons, so they aren't even different species. It's like raising with a jump straight.

There's a pretty funny op-ed in the Times today by a chemist who apparently doesn't undersand the difference between evolution and Darwinism

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 12, 2006 8:10 AM

This proves that there is indeed a new species.

Of scientist.

Posted by: Noel at May 12, 2006 8:47 AM

The chemist's understanding is even more deficient than you mentioned. He avers that commercial utility is the criterion of scientific truth, and then delivers this facile clinker: "Since evolution has been the dominant theory of biology for more than a century, it's a safe statement that all of the wonderful innovations in medicine and agriculture that we derive from biological research stem from the theory of evolution."

Instead of mock concern for the future of science students in backward Kansas, Mr. Thorp should be worried about the woeful education of chemistry students at the University of North Carolina, where he is Chairman.

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 12, 2006 1:22 PM

So what exactly is it that makes this a new separate species, and if those criteria were applied to humans, would the number of species be above or below a dozen?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 12, 2006 3:57 PM

Mr. Ortega, it's rude to ask the Whore's price before you have shown your're not a policeman.....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 12, 2006 4:25 PM

OJ's cranky crusade against the concept of species is, at the core, the same disagreement I had with a friend some years ago. He was claiming the concept of race was meaningless, because there were no clear-cut genetic markers, natural phenotypic variations, it was all a spectrum, etc. My response: "So are the concepts of night and day refuted by the existence of dawn and dusk?"

Same thing here. Obviously all living things aren't the same, and people started creating taxonomies long before Darwin. What constitutes a separate species is controversial, because living things aren't neatly designed and so don't all fit in neat categories.

So where does your idea stop, OJ? Genus? Family? Order? Class? Phylum? Kingdom? Or is it only the concept of species that is some form of mass illusion among biologists? And what, exactly, is the point of denying the existence of species? Do you think taxonomy undermines faith?

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 12, 2006 6:04 PM

Well, PapayaSF, I would thing at the point were interbreeding isn't possible, but then there wouldn't be all those indangered 'species' would there? You only have to take money once to be forever labeled a whore.....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 12, 2006 6:20 PM


Exactly, that's why Darwinism leads to racism.

Posted by: oj at May 12, 2006 6:37 PM

So Darwinism leads to racism because taxonomy undermines faith? So then taxonomy leads to racism?

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 12, 2006 7:51 PM

Maybe because Darwinism pushs differences and competion for limited resources?

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 12, 2006 7:58 PM


No, because if you believe in species then the different races are different species.

Posted by: oj at May 12, 2006 8:07 PM

Oooookaaaaaay, I say, backing away slowly. I must say I've never heard of anyone believing such a thing. Can you point to anyone else who does?

And you never answered my question about genus, family, order, etc. So it would follow that you don't believe there's a real distinction between plants and animals?

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 13, 2006 2:26 AM


There is a distinction between people seeing a difference in what they encounter in life and postulating a hard objective, scientific difference in species or genus. Your fellow darwinist, Robert Duquette, is fond of arguing that the reason we have found so few intermediate species is that everything is intermediate and we are just not recognizing them as so. I have no doubt you reject the notion that different races are different species for non-scientific reasons that do you credit, but how can you justify that rejection scientifically when you are surrounded by excited scientists insisting every monkey, butterfly, salamander, etc. they stumble upon is a different species?

Posted by: Peter B at May 13, 2006 8:13 AM


That's why the far Right beleves so fiercely in Darwinism and why guys like Gould bailed on it as sociobiology returned racialism to biology.

Posted by: oj at May 13, 2006 8:59 AM

Papaya, Didn't Darwin write that in 'The Ascent of Man'? And of course the 'races' differ as much as the snail darter differs from a regular darter. I thought the whole point of science was to find natural law and understand it, apply it.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 13, 2006 11:07 AM

Forget man for a minute. Can anyone explain why a Duchsand and a Great Dane are the same species?

Posted by: David Cohen at May 13, 2006 11:26 AM

Careful, Mr. Cohen. Are you saying that pygmies aren't human?

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 13, 2006 11:33 AM

Because they can breed.

Posted by: oj at May 13, 2006 12:27 PM

I could show fight on natural selection having done and doing more for
the progress of civilization than you seem inclined to admit. Remember
what risk the nations of Europe ran, not so many centuries ago of being
overwhelmed by the Turks, and how ridiculous such an idea now is! The
more civilised so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow
in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant
date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been
eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world.

Letter to W. Graham July 3rd, 1881

Posted by: Charles Darwin at May 13, 2006 12:29 PM


Ah, what do you know about Darwinism....

Posted by: oj at May 13, 2006 12:30 PM

OJ: I would say that I would pay money to see that, except that I really, really wouldn't.

Robert: Why would I say that?

Posted by: David Cohen at May 13, 2006 12:51 PM


According to Darwinism, a Swede never having bred with a pygmy the two are different species.

Posted by: oj at May 13, 2006 12:55 PM

Mr. Cohen I'm not accusing you of saying that, however; Poodle is to Great Dane as Pygmie is to normal person. Perhaps we need a clearer definition of 'species'?

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 13, 2006 12:58 PM

There's no such thing as species. Give them their way and they'll destroy that of genus too.

Posted by: oj at May 13, 2006 1:03 PM

The endangered Genus act of 2007? How would you write that up?

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 13, 2006 1:10 PM

Yes, that's just one of their problems: note, for example, that the spotted owl isn't a species:

Posted by: oj at May 13, 2006 1:17 PM