Myanmar snub-nosed monkey

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Myanmar snub-nosed monkey
Drawing of Rhinopithecus strykeri.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Cercopithecidae
Genus: Rhinopithecus
R. strykeri
Binomial name
Rhinopithecus strykeri
Geissmann et al., 2010
Burma Kachin locator map.png
Distribution: Kachin State, Northern Burma (Myanmar), in black, contains the range of R. strykeri. A small population also exists in adjacent parts of Yunnan, China

The Myanmar snub-nosed monkey or black snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri) is a critically threatened species of colobine monkey discovered in 2010 in northern Burma (Myanmar).[1] It was formally described as a novel species of primate in 2011 based on its fur, beard and tail.[2] Two groups of the species were discovered in China in 2011 and 2015, respectively.[3][4]

The species is known in local dialects of Lisu people as mey nwoah and Law Waw people as myuk na tok te, both of which mean "monkey with an upturned face".[5] Rain allegedly causes it to sneeze due to the short upturned nasal flesh around its nostrils. People from the area report that it sits with its head directed downwards, hiding its face between its knees when it rains.[6]

Scientific identification and taxonomy[edit]

The species came to the attention of a team of scientists allied to the "Myanmar Primate Conservation Program"[7] researching the status of the hoolock gibbon in early 2010.[8] The team, led by Swiss primatologist Thomas Geissman and Ngwe Lwin of the Myanmar Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA), were supported by Fauna & Flora International (FFI)[7] and the People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF). The specific name strykeri is given in honour of philanthropist Jon Stryker, president and founder of the Arcus Foundation, which also sponsored the project.[9][10]

The type specimen was identified from the Maw River area of northeastern Kachin state in northeastern Burma. The specimen most closely examined was the skull (with mandible) and skin of a gutted adult male obtained from hunters in Pade, subsequently deposited in the Anthropological Institute and Museum of the University of Zürich. Additional sample skulls of animals killed some three years earlier, one male and one female, were also collected along with a bag made out of the skin of a juvenile caught in January 2010, all obtained in Htantan village.[2]

The team encountered seven live specimens, including an infant, but these moved out of sight before they could be photographed or studied in detail.[6] A camera trap set by a team of FFI, BANCA and PRCF researchers captured the first known images of live snub-nosed monkeys in January 2012.[11]

Physical characteristics[edit]

The monkey's fur is mostly black. Its crown consists of a thin, high, forward-curved crest of long, black hairs. It has protruding white ear tufts, a mostly naked face with pale pink skin, a “moustache” of whitish hairs above the upper lip, and a distinct white chin beard. The perineal area is white and clearly defined, and the limbs are mostly black; the inner sides of the upper arms and upper legs are blackish brown. The lips are prominent, and the nose upturned, allegedly causing the animal to sneeze in rainy weather.[12] Its tail is approximately 1.4 times the body length: the first sample, an adult male, has a head-body length of 55.5 centimetres (21.9 in), and a tail 78 cm (31 in) long.[2]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The species spend summer months in temperate mixed forests at upper altitudes of their range, and descend to lower ground in the winter to escape snow.[13]

When first discovered, the only known specimens existed in three or four groups within a 270 square kilometres (100 sq mi) range at 1,700 to 3,200 metres (5,600–10,500 ft) above sea level in the eastern Himalayas, in the north-eastern section of Kachin State, the northernmost part of Burma (Myanmar). In 2011, a population was discovered in Pianma, Lushui County, Yunnan, China.[14] The species is isolated from other snub-nosed Rhinopithecus by the Mekong and the Salween rivers; the other 4 species, golden, black, gray and Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys, are found in China and Vietnam.[8] The species shares habitat with Shortridge's langur, stump-tailed macaque, Assam macaque, rhesus macaque, and northern pig-tailed macaque.[2]

On the morning of 16 October 2011, a forest guard at Gaoligongshan National Nature Reserve (GNNR), China took photos of a group of snub-nosed monkeys which were later identified as R. strykeri. This made a breaking headline in China especially on the urgent need for a conservation programme.[3]

Habitat evaluation study shows that the Myanmar or black snub-nosed monkeys' habitat are covering 3670 km2 in Sino-Myanmar border, including core habitat of 1420 km2 .[15]

Feeding habit study shows this species can consume more than 170 pant species and fungal foods, 15 species of lichens.[16]

Conservation status[edit]

Deforestation due to logging operations,[7] isolation and hunting by local humans for food are considered dangers[12] to the small extant population. The known Burmese population size is 260-330 individuals,[2] and it is believed less than 200 remain in China.[14] It is recognized as critically endangered by the IUCN.[1] The Chinese population is found within the Gaoligongshan National Nature Reserve and it has been proposed to create a national park to protect this species in Burma.[3][17]

Origin and Evolution[edit]

Snub-nosed monkeys and the langurs are the two major groups of colobine monkeys in Asia. The monophyletic origin of these Asian monkeys are already established through molecular phylogeny using nuclear and mitochondrial DNAs.[18][19] To further resolve the evolutionary status of these monkeys with emphasis on R. strykery, primatologists at German Primate Center analysed the complete mitochondrial genomes and 12 nuclear loci, including one X chromosomal, six Y chromosomal and five autosomal loci, from all ten odd-nosed monkey species. Their findings in 2012 revealed that snub nosed Rhinopithecus group represent the most basal lineage, with Nasalis and Simias forming the closest group, which implies that these odd-nosed monkeys originated from northern Burma and a later expanded into Indochina and Sundaland. The snub-nosed group diverged from other Asian monkeys about 6.8-6 million years ago, and from Nasalis and Simia clade about 1.2 Ma. Further, various species of the snub-nosed group split from each other about 730,000-400,000 years ago.[20]


Taxonomic experts at the International Institute for Species Exploration honoured the monkey species as one of the Top 10 New Species 2012 among new species described in 2011 throughout the world. Its unique appearance, behaviour and vulnerability make it outstanding and not only in novelty, but also in conservation issues. It has even earned a new nickname "the sneezing monkey" for its peculiar behaviour.[21] In 2012 it was also listed at no 9 of the Top 10 weirdest new species by the Chinese news portal,[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Geissmann, T.; Momberg, F. & Whitten, T. (2012). "Rhinopithecus strykeri". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2012: e.T13508501A13508504. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2012-1.RLTS.T13508501A13508504.en.
  2. ^ a b c d e Geissmann T, Lwin N, Aung SS, Aung TN, Aung ZM, Hla TH, Grindley M, Momberg F (2012). "A new species of snub-nosed monkey, genus Rhinopithecus Milne-Edwards, 1872 (Primates, Colobinae), from northern Kachin state, northeastern Myanmar". Am J Primatol. 73 (1): 96–107. doi:10.1002/ajp.20894. PMID 20981682.
  3. ^ a b c Long Y, Momberg F, Ma J, Wang Y, Luo Y, Li H, Yang G, Li M (2012). "Rhinopithecus strykeri found in China!". Am J Primatol. 74 (10): 871–873. doi:10.1002/ajp.22041. PMID 22736378.
  4. ^ Yang, Yin; Tian, Yinping; He, Chenxiang; Huang, Zhipang; Dong, Shaohua; Wang, Bing; Li, Guangsong; Long, Yongchen; Xiao, Wen (January 2018). "The Critically Endangered Myanmar snub-nosed monkey Rhinopithecus strykeri found in the Salween River Basin, China". Oryx. 52 (1): 134–136. doi:10.1017/S0030605316000934. ISSN 0030-6053.
  5. ^ Wheeler Q (18 December 2011). "New to Nature No 61: Rhinopithecus strykeri". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 2013-05-26.
  6. ^ a b Kaufman, R. New Snub-Nosed Monkey Discovered, Eaten 27 Oct 2010 National Geographic Retrieved 28 Oct 2010
  7. ^ a b c "FFI discovers new species of snub-nosed monkey | News | Fauna & Flora International". Retrieved 2010-10-28.
  8. ^ a b "New snub-nosed monkey from Northern Myanmar: Rhinopithecus strykeri". 2010-10-27. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
  9. ^ New snub-nosed monkey discovered in Northern Myanmar Oct 26 2010 Retrieved 28 Oct 2010
  10. ^ "Arcus Foundation | Push Boundaries. Make Change".
  11. ^ Catterick, Ally (10 January 2012). "First images of newly discovered primate: World's first look at the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey". Fauna & Flora International. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  12. ^ a b Ella Davies (27 October 2010). "New species of snub-nosed monkey discovered in Myanmar". BBC. Retrieved 28 October 2010.: "The monkeys allegedly sneeze audibly when rainwater gets in their noses and local people said they could be found with their heads tucked between their knees on rainy days.".
  13. ^ 25 October 2010 Wiley - Blackwell. "New Snub-Nosed Monkey Discovered in Northern Myanmar". Retrieved 2010-10-28.
  14. ^ a b ScienceDaily (July 26, 2012). First Photo Evidence of Snub-Nosed Monkey Species in China. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  15. ^ Ren, Guo-Peng; Yang, Yin; He, Xiao-Dong; Li, Guang-Song; Gao, Ying; Huang, Zhi-Pang; Ma, Chi; Wang, Wei; Xiao, Wen (2017-05-01). "Habitat evaluation and conservation framework of the newly discovered and critically endangered black snub-nosed monkey". Biological Conservation. 209: 273–279. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2017.02.029. hdl:1885/113454. ISSN 0006-3207.
  16. ^ Yang, Yin; Groves, Colin; Garber, Paul; Wang, Xinwen; Li, Hen; Long, Yongchen; Li, Guangsong; Tian, Yingping; Dong, Shaohua (2019-03-01). "First insights into the feeding habits of the Critically Endangered black snub-nosed monkey, Rhinopithecus strykeri (Colobinae, Primates)". Primates. 60 (2): 143–153. doi:10.1007/s10329-019-00717-0. ISSN 1610-7365. PMID 30847671.
  17. ^ "New hope for critically endangered Myanmar snub-nosed monkey". Deutsches Primatenzentrum (in German). Retrieved 2019-05-26.
  18. ^ Roos C, Zinner D, Kubatko LS, Schwarz C, Yang M, Meyer D, Nash SD, Xing J, Batzer MA, Brameier M, Leendertz FH, Ziegler T, Perwitasari-Farajallah D, Nadler T, Walter L, Osterholz M (2011). "A molecular phylogeny of living primates". BMC Evol Biol. 11 (3): 77. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-77. PMC 3068967. PMID 21435245.
  19. ^ Perelman P, Johnson WE, Roos C, Seuánez HN, Horvath JE, Moreira MA, Kessing B, Pontius J, Roelke M, Rumpler Y, Schneider MP, Silva A, O'Brien SJ, Pecon-Slattery J (2011). "A molecular phylogeny of living primates". PLOS Genetics. 7 (3): e1001342. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001342. PMC 3060065. PMID 21436896.
  20. ^ Liedigk R, Yang M, Jablonski NG, Momberg F, Geissmann T, Lwin N, Hla TH, Liu Z, Wong B, Ming L, Yongcheng L, Zhang YP, Nadler T, Zinner D, Roos C (2012). "Evolutionary history of the odd-nosed monkeys and the phylogenetic position of the newly described Myanmar snub-nosed monkey Rhinopithecus strykeri". PLoS ONE. 7 (5): e37418. Bibcode:2012PLoSO...737418L. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037418. PMC 3353941. PMID 22616004.
  21. ^ Murray R (23 May 2012). "Top 10 New Species list includes sneezing monkey, blue tarantula and night-blooming orchid". Daily News. Retrieved 2013-05-26.
  22. ^ Lin X (15 August 2012). "Top 10 weirdest new species: #9 Myanmar snub-nosed monkey". Retrieved 2013-05-26.

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