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The Primates Portal

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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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Slow lorises are threatened by deforestation and the wildlife trade, including the exotic pet trade, traditional medicine, and bushmeat. Because of these and other threats, such as habitat fragmentation, selective logging, and slash and burn agriculture, slow lorises (genus Nycticebus) are listed as either "Vulnerable" or "Endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their conservation status was originally listed as "Least Concern" in 2000 because of the frequency in which these primates were found in animal markets and imprecise population surveys. Because of their rapidly declining populations and local extinctions, their status was updated and in 2007 CITES elevated them to Appendix I, which prohibits international commercial trade. Local laws also protect slow lorises from hunting and trade, but enforcement is lacking in most areas.

Slow lorises have been a part of the traditional beliefs of Southeast Asia for at least several hundred years. Their remains are buried under houses and roads to bring good luck, and every part of their body is used in traditional medicine to make everything from love potions to unproven cures for cancer, leprosy, epilepsy, and sexually transmitted diseases. Furthermore, a large number of slow lorises are traded as pets, both locally and internationally. Although it is illegal to import slow lorises for commercial sale, they are popular pets in Japan, the United States, and Europe, largely due to their "cute" appearance, which has been popularized in highly viewed YouTube videos. Captive lorises experience improper care and die from poor nutrition, stress, or infection. Despite this, demand has risen, and slow lorises are no longer captured opportunistically, but are now hunted on a commercial scale using flashlights, from which the animals do not flee.

Connected protected areas are important for the conservation of slow lorises because these primates are not suited for traveling long distances on the ground. Training for enforcement officials helps improve identification and the awareness of their legal protection. Sanctuaries and rescue facilities are available to provide both temporary and lifelong care for confiscated slow lorises. Zoo populations of some species have not bred much recently and are growing too old to reproduce, although the pygmy slow loris is doing well at some facilities, such as the San Diego Zoo.

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Cscr-featured.svg Credit: Mila Zinkova

Emperor tamarins inhabit tropical rain forests, living deep in the forest and also in open tree-covered areas. This diurnal species walks or runs quadrupedally through the forest, spending the majority of its days in the trees with quick, safe movements and broad jumps among the limbs.

Primates News

Archives: 2009



  • 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 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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Eulemur collaris (Collared brown lemur)
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Vulnerable (IUCN 3.1)|Vulnerable

The collared brown lemur (Eulemur collaris) is a medium-sized strepsirhine primate and one of twelve species of brown lemur in the Lemuridae family. It is only found in south-eastern Madagascar. Like most species of lemur, it is arboreal, moving quadrupedally and occasionally leaping from tree to tree. Like other brown lemurs, it lives in social groups, primarily eats fruit, is active both day and night, exhibits sexual dichromatism, and does not demonstrate female dominance. The species is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is threatened primarily by habitat loss.

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