Know Your Primate: Rhinopithecus roxellana

Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorrhini
Family: Cercopithecidae
Subfamily: Colobinae
Genus: Rhinopithecus
Species: Rhinopithecus roxellana
Common: Golden snub-nosed monkey
The taxonomy of the snub-nosed langurs is somewhat muddled. For purposes of this post I am following the simplest arrangement. The genus Rhinopithecus contains four species, three of which live at high elevations (up to about 4,500 meters) in China and the Tibetan plateau.

The golden snub-nosed monkey lives in temperate and conifer forests and is considered on of the largest colobines. They are highly social animals. During the summer groups as high as 600 individuals have been reported. Typical group size, however is one male, 3-5 females, and offspring. Like chimps, the golden snub-nosed monkey displays fission-fusion behavior with the larger groups breaking up during the winter. They feed on leaves, pine needles, lichen, seeds, nuts, wild onions, bamboo shoots, and some fruit. Not much is known about them otherwise, although Fleagle mentions Rhinopithecus fossils from Pleistocene strata in China, India, and the islands of the Sunda Shelf.

One Response

  1. An article by T.T. Struhsaker and L Leland, “Colobines: Infanticide by Adult Males” (in Smuts et al 1987 Primate Societies: 83-97) adds a few interesting observations. These monkeys are among those which have a 4-chambered stomach for digesting leaves, similar to cows apparently; they have reduced thumbs and very long fingers; they give birth seasonally; and females continue to experience estrus after conception, mating sometimes late into pregnancy. This seems to be a strategy used to gain the favor of potentially infanticidal males since pregnant females are quick to mate with males which attack the infants of other females in their group. Males apparently try to kill the infants of other males, returning the mothers to estrus sooner so that they can breed with them and increase their own (males’) reproductive success. Of course, the monkeys themselves have extremely limited concepts about all this, in reality, but these are the terms the researchers use.

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