Primates Unknown

Primates are an order of mammals (Order Primates) to which human beings and about 200 other living species belong. In general, they have round skulls containing brains that are large relative to body weight, high foreheads, eyes with stereoscopic vision, hands that can grasp and manipulate, fingers and toes with sensitive pads and nails instead of claws, mobile arms and ankles, and two mammary glands.

Rocks in North America, Europe, and Asia from the Paleocene, 65-54 million years ago, are the earliest to contain fossil primates. The fossils are diverse enough to suggest that primates may have been distinct from other mammals as early as the Late Cretaceous, 70 million years ago. Modern-looking primates appear in the fossil record by the Eocene, 55-34 million years ago. Until recently, a group of animals called Plesiadapiformes that lived in North America, Europe, and Asia in the Paleocene and Early Eocene, 65-49 million years ago, were considered "archaic primates." However, recent evidence suggests that they were more closely related to Flying lemurs (Order Dermoptera) than to primates.

Living primates can be grouped into three suborders: Prosimians, consisting of lemurs, lorises, and bushbabies; Tarsiiformes, containing the tarsiers (which sometimes are grouped with either of the two other suborders); and An-thropoidea, covering monkeys, gibbons, orangutans, African apes, and humans. In recent years, molecular biology has shown that Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are the closest relatives to modern humans, so much so that human and chimp hemoglobin is virtually identical. Taxon-omists now tend to put chimps, bonobos, and gorillas in the same subfamily (Homininae) as humans, with orangutans as a sister group (Ponginae) within the Family Hominidae.

For the purposes of this volume, which deals with observations of allegedly undescribed species, bipedal hominids are placed in separate sections based on their size (GIANT HOMINIDS, Wildmen, and Small Hominids), while anything that prefers to walk on all fours or swing in the trees remains here in the Primate section. This categorization may not be fair to some


cryptids, which ultimately could be cataloged somewhere else if a specimen is obtained, but it will have to do for now. Sometimes, the only characteristic that untrained observers comment upon is gait (and hairiness—but this is a given since sightings of nonhairy primates undoubtedly involve humans of some kind).

The three families of more than fifty species of prosimian Lemurs (Lemuridae, Cheirogalei-dae, and Indriidae) are confined to Madagascar, an island with the third-highest rate of primate diversity in the world (after Brazil and Indonesia). It has its fair share of lemur cryptids as well. Eight genera of the related Lorises (Lorisidae) reside in India, Southeast Asia, and Africa. These creatures are little studied in the wild, so there may well be new species awaiting discovery.

What we traditionally call monkeys have moderately sized brains and bodies, sport long tails (usually), eat fruits and foliage, and move in trees rather than along the ground. New World monkeys (the Cebidae and Atelidae families) have external noses with nostrils that face to the side, three premolar teeth in both jaws, curved nails, and long tails. Old World monkeys (Family Cercopithecide) have narrower noses with nostrils facing down, two premolar teeth, flattened nails, and tails that vary in length from long to stubby. Monkeylike primates probably first arose in the Eocene, but the earliest known anthropoid fossils are 32 million years old, from Early Oligocene deposits at Fayum, Egypt.

Apes evolved from Old World monkeys in the Oligocene, 33-26 million years ago. In that period, the fossil monkey Aegyptopithecus already had some apelike characteristics. The fossil African ape Proconsul was long thought to have been the oldest, but in the early 1990s, a redat-ing of the Lothidok, Kenya, site to about 26 million years ago transferred the honor to Kamoya-pithecus hamiltoni, a Late Oligocene ape similar to Proconsul except for some dental details. Pro-consulid species ranged in size from a small gibbon to a female gorilla; they survived in Africa until the Late Miocene, 15-14 million years ago.

The Hominidae sprang up in Africa in the Miocene, about 17 million years ago. This family includes the largest of all living primates, the

Mountain gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei) of Central Africa. The average adult male stands 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs about 460 pounds. The Lowland gorilla subspecies is only slightly smaller. (The Pleistocene Chinese ape Giganto-pithecus undoubtedly exceeded that size; however, since no postcranial bones have been discovered, its true size remains in question.) One group of apes left Africa and migrated to Asia, resulting ultimately in the Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) of Indonesia. The other stayed in Africa and differentiated into gorilla, chimpanzee, and human lineages.

Homo sapiens is the result of two major shifts in habitat: Around 8-5 million years ago, a chimpanzee-like ape abandoned the rain forest for the outlying belt of tree savanna and evolved into the slightly more bipedal but still arboreal australopiths. Then, around 2.5 million years ago, the increasingly arid African climate changed much of the tree savanna environment into less-protective bush savanna, forcing aus-tralopiths to use their wits and bigger brains to develop defensive and hunting weapons, fire, and a more exclusively terrestrial form of locomotion. These developments resulted in Homo erectus and Homo rudolfensis.

Of the 65 primates in this section, 10 involve prosimians, 1 is apparently a tarsier, at least 10 are monkeylike, and the other 44 share some apelike characteristics. Of the 13 apelike cryp-tids in Africa, 7 are chimpanzee-like, 4 are gorilla-like, and 2 (the KOOLOO-KAMBA and Pygmy Gorilla) are said to be apes that are smaller than gorillas but larger than chimps. Of the 11 apelike cryptids in Asia, 7 seem related to the orangutan. Apes in the Americas are much more ambiguously described.

Primate taxonomy is still in a state of flux and controversy, with new discoveries and molecular studies changing our understanding of known species almost on a yearly basis. With unknown species, an extra dose of caution seems warranted before offering anything more than tentative guesses concerning their identity.

Mystery Primates


Bangenza; Bili

Ape; Chollier's Ape;


Dediéka; Fotsiaondré; Gabon Orangutan; Giant Ape; Giant Aye-Aye; Giant Bushbaby; Kidoky; Kooloo-Kamba; Malagnira; Nandi Bear; Ngend; Oliver; Pygmy Gorilla; Tano Giant; Tokandia; Tratratratra; Ufiti; Wa-


Beruang Rambai; Bir-Sindic; Fei-Fei; Hantu Sakai; Hibagon; Homo nocturnus; Homo TROGLODYTES; INK MONKEY; Kra-Dhan; Mawas; Orang Pendek; Packda; Pale Slow Loris; Qa; Rén-Xióng; Tailed Slow Loris; Thanacth; Tua Yeua; Xing-Xing; Yara-Ma-Yha-Who; Yeti

Central and South America Carugua; De Loys's Ape; Didi; Isnachi; Man-Beast of Darién; Mapinguari; Mari-bunda; Mono Grande; Oüuahi; Pé de Garrafa; Sisemité; Tarma; Ulak; Yoho; Yoshi

North America

Booger; Devil Monkey; Nalusa Falaya; Nebraska Man; North American Ape; Skunk Ape; Traverspine Gorilla

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