Sub-class Placentalia

Order Primates

Family Pithecidae (titis and related New World monkeys)

Species Paralouatta varonai

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.


Sub-class Placentalia

Order Primates

Family Indriidae (Indris)

Species Palaeopropithecus ingens

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.

See 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.


Sub-class Placentalia

Order Primates

Family Lemuridae (Lemurs)

Species Megaladapis edwardsi

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 humanoid face.
"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."

(From observations on the natural history of Madagascar recorded by the French explorer Etienne Flacourt in 1661.)

Be sure to see a mounted specimen (the real thing!) of this species at the AMNH!

See 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.