Back to civilisation….

Posted on November 30, 2010

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For the last five days I have been holed up in my flat writing an essay for one of my university modules. The deadline was yesterday. I didn’t see daylight in that time and I didn’t even bother to get out of my PJ’s until well after midday. I officially turned into ‘Cousin It’ quicker that you can say anthropogenic extinction (that’s me showing off that I’ve learnt an academic phrase, nah-nah- nahnah- nah!). My other half (the Northerner) was most unimpressed and was wondering how many days it would take before I also turned feral! Thankfully this didn’t happen, and I’m back to normal.

For anyone wondering, anthropogentic means caused by humans, or in simple English, man’s influence on the natural world.

So I know you’re all dying to know what the essay was about……. and as I haven’t told you anything about monkeys yet, it’s about high time I did, especially as the name of my blog mentions them, so-to-speak.

I wrote about the Black Howler Monkey – Alouatta pigra is its official Latin name. And yes, it has to be in italics if you write it like that or you have to underline it, if you don’t have the correct font button.  It’s because of binominal classification which is the simplest and uniformed way of scientifically naming species.

The first word is always capitalised and describes the group of species,  ie: genus (Alouatta) and second word describes the common name (pigra) and is always lower case. Who’s brainchild was this I can hear you holler?? It was all down to the 18th Century Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus.

So the Howler Monkey (there are lots of species, I believe 6 different ones)  is quite an interesting monkey. I’m not going to bore you all to tears by re-hashing the essay about my particular species, but I’ll fill you in on the genus as a whole. It’s found in South America (which makes it a New World Monkey) and it has two really impressive features.

The first is a prehensile tail, which means it acts like a fifth limb.  This monkey can suspend its entire body weight by its tail while swinging through the trees or while it’s feeding. Now I’m a firm believer that if a monkey has a tail, it has to be able to do a lot more than just give it balance – otherwise what’s the point of that?! If you’re a monkey with a long tail and something is chasing you that can grab your bloody tail, you wouldn’t be best pleased, if the only thing it was useful for was crossing a log, would you?

But if you’re a monkey that can multi-task, now we’re talking! You can eat with one hand;  swing through the trees with your tail and in between grabbing the other branch, you can give yourself a quick scratch. Pretty darn cool huh? Howlers aren’t exclusive to this, by the way. Monkeys from the family Atelinae and Cebus also have this very exciting feature.

No prizes for guessing what the last characteristic is, the name kinda gives it away.  Yup, you got it, this monkey loves to make a racket in the forest. And it’s not a solo performance. Oh no,  we’re talking orchestral. The entire group ‘roars’ especially in the morning, it’s how it marks out its territory from other groups in the area.  I realise there is no other way to make a noise like this without puckering up your lips, but these monkeys do look like they belong in a sketch from  The Fast Show – “oh suits you sir!”

Here, have a listen to their dulcet tones. This is courtesy of National Geographic. Wonderful footage, awful voiceover!

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Posted in: My brain hurts!