Endemic monkeys lived on several of the Greater Antilles during
the Quaternary. Paralouatta varonai, which lived in Cuba, was
a relatively large species that may have weighed as much as a
living howler monkey (Alouatta, 15-20 lb). All extant platyrrhines
are exclusively arboreal, but some limb bones of Paralouatta are
remarkably similar to those of monkeys that spend part of the
time on the ground (e.g., langur monkeys, genus Presbytis). Bones
of Paralouatta have only been found in cave sites in one area
of western Cuba, the Sierra de los Organos. It has not yet been
established when this species became extinct; it may have died
out comparatively early. None of the material recovered from the
cave sites is associated with evidence of humans.
See also: MacPhee, R.D.E., 1996. The Greater Antillean monkeys. Revista de Ciència 18: 13-32.
| Palaeopropithecus ingens and closely related P. maximus (weighing
as much as 100-120 pounds) were two of the more unusual members of Madagascar's
recently extinct mammal fauna. They are called "sloth lemurs" because
their skeletons are massively convergent on those of living tree sloths. In
addition to several other sloth-like specializations, the forearms were greatly
elongated and the digits of both the hands and feet were long and strongly
bowed -- indeed, so bowed that the animals would not have been capable of fine
grasping movements. Scientists believe that Palaeopropithecus moved
upside down, using its hands and feet as grappling hooks to inch along under
branches as it searched for edible fruits and leaves. This behavior would presumably
have made it an easy target for hunters, although there is no evidence that
humans preyed on this (or any other) extinct lemur. It has long been known
that Palaeopropithecus ingens died out very recently; new radiocarbon
dates indicate that it may have still been living around AD 1500.
also: Simons, E. L., 1997. Lemurs: old and new. In S. Goodman and
B. Patterson (eds.), Natural and Human-Induced Change in Madagascar, pp.
142-166. Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington DC.
| The giant lemur Megaladapis edwardsi was one of the largest of the
so-called subfossil lemurs. It weighed between 100 and 200 pounds and was the
size of a small adult human. Among its most distinctive features was its muzzle:
long and extremely robust, it evidently supported a large, fleshy nose or proboscis
(a lemur with a trunk, perhaps?). This and related species of Megaladapis
are common in subfossil sites along the western shore of Madagascar, as well
as the interior. Recent radiocarbon dates establish that this lemur was still
living around the time of European discovery of Madagascar (AD 1504). The lemur's
common name, if correctly attributed, relates to a Malagasy oral tradition
of the "tretretretre," an animal the size of a calf with a
"The tretretretre is a large animal, like a calf of two years, with a round head and the face of a man. The forefeet are like those of an ape, as are the hindfeet. It has curly hair, a short tail, and ears like a man's...It is a very solitary animal; the people of the country hold it in great fear and flee from it, as it does from them."
Be sure to see a mounted specimen (the real thing!) of this species
at the AMNH!
also: Godfrey, L. R., W. L. Jungers, K. E. Reed, E. L. Simons, and
P. S. Chatrath, 1997. Subfossil lemurs: inferences about past and present
primate communities in Madagascar. In S. Goodman and B. Patterson (eds.),
Natural and Human-Induced Change in Madagascar, pp. 218-256. Smithsonian
Institution Press: Washington DC.