Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The latest new primate - "Skywalker" gibbon

Gibbons are the most numerous of the apes, being split into four families and 17 species living in southern Asia and Indonesia.   Gibbons enjoy life in the treetops, swinging using their long arms with abilities that would put Tarzan to shame. They can make an incredible 50km/hour this way when in a hurry.    (They can also do a bipedal walk on the ground, but clearly don't like it much, as they have to use those arms to balance the way tightrope walkers use poles.)  

Incidentally, a ground-dwelling gibbon might exist in Sumatra, where it's known as orang-pendek: it's one of the most probable animals in cryptozoology, but that's not our story today.

Our story is about a brand-new species.

Zoo gibbon (unknown species) 

The discoverers of a new gibbon from China, it appears, are fans of the Star Wars films.  It was known that gibbons lived in the forests of Yunnan province, but no one had taken a close enough look until now to determine they were a separate species. The Skywalker hoolock gibbon has a scientific name which, in Chinese characters, translates as "heavenly movement." Skywalkers, alas, are few and  far between, like Jedi: there may be only 200 of the apes.

It's another reminder that we don't know all the animals on Earth - and another reminder that so many animals are in precarious situations.

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