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A primate is a member of the biological order Primates, the group that contains lemurs, the aye-aye, lorisids, galagos, tarsiers, monkeys, and apes, with the last category including great apes. With the exception of humans, who inhabit every continent on Earth, most primates live in tropical or subtropical regions of the Americas, Africa and Asia. Primates range in size from the 30-gram (1 oz) pygmy mouse lemur to the 200-kilogram (440 lb) mountain gorilla. According to fossil evidence, the primitive ancestors of primates may have existed in the late Cretaceous period around 65 mya (million years ago), and the oldest known primate is the Late Paleocene Plesiadapis, c. 55–58 mya. Molecular clock studies suggest that the primate branch may be even older, originating in the mid-Cretaceous period around 85 mya.

Primates exhibit a wide range of characteristics. Some primates do not live primarily in trees, but all species possess adaptations for climbing trees. Locomotion techniques used include leaping from tree to tree, walking on two or four limbs, knuckle-walking, and swinging between branches of trees (known as brachiation). Primates are characterized by their large brains relative to other mammals. These features are most significant in monkeys and apes, and noticeably less so in lorises and lemurs. Many species are sexually dimorphic, which means males and females have different physical traits, including body mass, canine tooth size, and coloration.

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Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.jpg
The Neanderthal is an extinct member of the Homo genus that is known from Pleistocene specimens found in Europe and parts of western and central Asia. Neanderthals are either classified as a subspecies of humans (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) or as a separate species (Homo neanderthalensis). The first proto-Neanderthal traits appeared in Europe as early as 600,000–350,000 years ago. Proto-Neanderthal traits are occasionally grouped to another phenetic 'species', Homo heidelbergensis, or a migrant form, Homo rhodesiensis. By 130,000 years ago, complete Neanderthal characteristics had appeared. These characteristics then disappeared in Asia by 50,000 years ago and in Europe by 30,000 years ago. The youngest Neanderthal finds include Hyaena Den (UK), considered older than 30,000 years ago, while the Vindija (Croatia) Neanderthals have been re-dated to between 32,000 and 33,000 years ago. No definite specimens younger than 30,000 years ago have been found; however, evidence of fire by Neanderthals at Gibraltar indicate that they may have survived there until 24,000 years ago. Modern human skeletal remains with 'Neanderthal traits' were found in Lagar Velho (Portugal), dated to 24,500 years ago and controversially interpreted as indications of extensively admixed populations.

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The white-fronted capuchin, Cebus albifrons, is a species of capuchin monkey, a type of New World primate, found in seven different countries in South America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago. The species is divided into several different subspecies, though the specific divisions are uncertain and controversial.

Primates News

Archives: 2009

2009

August

  • August 4 - Orangutans may be going deep to deter predators, and some are even using tools to sound more intimidating, a new study says. Read more
  • August 3 - The most malignant known form of malaria may have jumped from chimpanzees to humans, according to a new study of one of the most deadly diseases in the world. Read more

July

  • July 28 - Mani the monkey uses her own mysterious methods to tend dozens of goats without any supervision or training, according to the Associated Press. Read more
  • July 8 - Monkeys can form sentences and speak in accents—and now a new study shows that our genetic relatives can also recognize poor grammar. Read more

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Propithecus tattersalli (Golden-crowned sifaka)
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Endangered (IUCN 3.1)|Endangered

The golden-crowned sifaka or Tattersall's sifaka (Propithecus tattersalli) is a medium-sized lemur characterized by mostly white fur, prominent furry ears and a golden-orange crown. It is one of the smallest sifakas (genus Propithecus), weighing around 3.5 kg (7.7 lb) and measuring approximately 90 cm (35 in) from head to tail. Like all sifakas, it is a vertical clinger and leaper, and its diet includes mostly seeds and leaves. The golden-crowned sifaka is named after its discoverer, Ian Tattersall, who first spotted the species in 1974. However, it was not formally described until 1988, after a research team led by Elwyn Simons observed and captured them. The golden-crowned sifaka most closely resembles the western forest sifakas of the P. verreauxi group, yet its karyotype suggests a closer relationship with the P. diadema group of eastern forest sifakas. Despite the similarities with both groups, more recent studies of its karyotype support its classification as a distinct species.

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