Amongst all of the animals facing extinction in the world currently, perhaps the most interesting are those that share relatively recent ancestors (and many, many, many behaviors and social patterns…) with us — that is to say, other primates. The greater apes, the lesser apes (gibbons), the monkeys, the baboons, the lemurs, the tarsiers, the bush babies, etc.
The vast majority of these animals (across all of their various families, genera, and species) have seen their numbers plummet in recent years — largely owing to the incredible rates of habitat destruction seen over recent years, via deforestation, desertification, and encroaching human settlements.
Endangered primates now occupy perhaps the most prominant place in the public eye as far as endangered animals. The only other endangered land-animals that are perhaps of similar ‘charisma’ to the primates are the big cats, and/or elephants. (Maybe the rhinos as well?)
Based on current fossil evidence the earliest known primate (Teilhardina) lived around 55.8 million years ago. But other lines of enquiry (along with the general rareness of small-animal fossils from that far back) suggest that primates probably emerged ~85 million years ago, in the mid-Creataceous era — with evidence pointing toward an origin in what would now be considered to be a part of Asia (of course, the land masses of the world back then were connected in very different ways).
Since that relatively long ago origin in the tropical forests of a very different world, inhabited by very different forms of life, primates have spread out across a great many different environments and ecological niches.
Diversifying into the mountain-living gorillas, the shellfish-smashing Burmese macaques, the tree-sap-loving marmosets, the grass-eating geladas, the war-like chimps, the fishing-by-hand long-tailed macaques, the kills-bush-babies-with-sharpened-spears chimpanzees (they use stone hammers as well), the hot-spring loving snow monkeys (Japanese macaques), the jet-engine-loud howler monkeys, etc, of today.
And, also, into the pack-living (chimpanzees, many monkey species), the crowd/troop living (baboons, geladas), the nuclear-family-like (gorillas), the pair-bonded (gibbons), and the largely solitary (orangutangs/orangutans), social structures seen today.
Many of the species to which these highly-diverse behaviours and ways of living are embodied by are now considered to be endangered — largely owing to human activity over the last few thousand years. And, in particular, over the last few hundred years.
Below I’ve made a list of some of these now endangered animals — providing interesting facts, images, and anecdotes. Enjoy.
Read the rest of this entry →