Popular Science Monthly/Volume 7/October 1875/Monkeys from a Cold Climate

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FOR upward of ten years, the Abbé Armand David, a Catholic missionary, has devoted himself to studying the fauna and flora of regions in the Chinese Empire previously unvisited by any European naturalist. He has enriched the Paris Museum of Natural History with collections of great value, representing a number of species either new to science, or not known to have their habitat in Eastern Asia. The Abbe David came to Peking in July, 1862, and in the following year made his first remittance to the museum, of natural history specimens collected and prepared by himself. In 1864 he spent several months at a point 125 miles north of Peking, collecting there fresh materials. Two years later he was in Mongolia, where he spent several months. In 1868 he explored the province of Kiangsi, in Central China, discovering several new species. Toward the end of that year he ascended the Yang-tse-kiang, on a steamer, as far as the city of Hanyang. Thence he made the voyage to the ancient city of Ichang, on a junk, navigating a series of lakes and canals. After a week of difficult navigation he again reached the Yang-tse-kiang, and embarked on a junk of greater tonnage for the province of Szchuen; but, landing at Chungking, he left his baggage on board the junk, and himself cut across-country, reaching Chingtu, the capital of Szchuen, after twelve days' travel. Here M. David spent two months, hunting and botanizing in the surrounding country. Toward the end of February, 1869, he was on the road again, traveling westward over a rugged country, till he reached the border of Moupin, an independent principality, situated on the frontier of China proper. Most maps of Eastern Asia make no mention of Moupin, which is inhabited by the Mantzes, a race differing from both the Chinese and the Tibetans, though they resemble the latter rather than the former. This country lies between Kokonor, the K'ham country, and H'lassa, and is separated from Nepaul, Bhotan, and Assam, by the main range of the Himalaya. But the country really forms a part of the Himalaya region, being covered with lofty mountains whose summits are clad with perpetual snow. Hence, though the centre of Moupin is situated between the thirty-first and the thirty-second degree of north latitude, that is to say, in the latitude of Egypt, its winters are extremely cold, the snow persists in the valleys for several months, and, during the rest of the year, the rain and snow fall with great frequency. This constant humidity of the atmosphere gives rise to a very abundant vegetation; on all sides are to be seen magnolias, laurels, and rhododendrons, which often attain a considerable size; and the mountains are covered half-way up their sides with forests of pine and cedar. In this country, altogether unknown to Europeans, M. David took up his abode, in the midst of a great valley, situated 2,129 metres (about 7,000 feet) above the sea-level, and only one day's journey from Hong-chan-tin, a mountain over 5,000 metres (nearly 10,500 feet) in height, but commanded by still loftier snow-clad peaks on the north and the southwest.

PSM V07 D686 Moupin monkey.jpg
Moupin Monkey (Rhinopithecus Roxellanæ).

No sooner had he reached this locality than there arose difficulties apparently insurmountable. A decree had a little before been issued prohibiting the destruction of game of any kind, in view of a new incarnation of the Buddha. But fortunately the native hunters listened to reason, and M. David succeeded in quieting their scruples by means of money. In this way be secured a number of birds and mammals, of species that one would not have expected to find in that country.

Among the interesting types discovered in Moupin, we must assign the preëminence to a monkey with long hair and retroussé nose, which Alphonse Milne-Edwards has described and figured under the name of Rhinopithecus Roxellanæ. This species inhabits the mountains in the western portion of Moupin, as also the district of Yaotchy, and as far as Kokonor. Thus it lives in a region where snow remains on the ground during more than six months in the year. According to the hunters, these monkeys are found in the woods, and always in large troops. Usually, they remain on the tops of lofty trees, and feed on the fruit and young shoots of the wild-bamboo. In possessing no cheek-pouches for stowing away food, and in having one tubercle only on the last molar tooth of the lower jaw, they resemble the Semnopitheci; but yet they cannot be classed in the same genus, since, both in anatomical structure and in external aspect, the Moupin monkey presents certain peculiarities which entitle it to a special position among simians. Thus, in the Semnopitheci, for instance in the simpai, the entellus, and the budeng, or negro-monkey, the limbs are disproportionately long as compared with the body; the thumb of the anterior hands is short and situated very far back; the tail is long and slender; while in the Moupin monkey the limbs are short and very muscular, the body very strongly built, the tail tufted and shorter in proportion than in the entellus. Besides these, there exist several other characteristics which fully justify the making of a new genus for this Moupin monkey. Thus, the anterior and posterior limbs present no considerable disproportion, as is the case with many of the Semnopitheci; the upper arm-bone is very long, longer than the forearm, and its circumference is much increased in its articular portion; the radius (one of the bones of the forearm) presents a strong curvature, with its convexity turned forward, the result being that the interosseous space acquires an exceptionally large size; the hand is large and thick, instead of being long and slender, as in the simpai; but the thumb is quite as rudimentary as in the latter species, and its terminal joint barely extends below the extremity of the first metacarpal bone. The bones of the rest of the fingers are very much bent, which enable the hand to grasp a branch very firmly. The thigh-bone is stout and longer than the large bone of the leg. Finally, the finger-bones of the posterior hands (feet) are short and bowed, which circumstance gives to the palm the form of an arch, and the thumb, instead of being almost atrophied, as in the anterior hands, reaches to the extremity of the first phalange of the index-finger.

The conformation of the head indicates an animal of higher intelligence than the macaques and the Seminopitheci. Thus the face is but weakly prognathous; or, in other words, the lower jaw, compared with the forehead, does not offer that bold prominence which is nearly always a token of ferocity. The brain-case is large and well developed posteriorly, and the temporal ridge, i. e., the bony prominence to which are attached the principal muscles of the under jaw, is smaller than in the Semnopitheci. The eye-sockets are round, the cheek-bones prominent, and the nasal region, instead of being in a right line with the forehead, as in the mitred monkey and the great monkey of Cochin-China, is deeply depressed, giving to the face a very peculiar expression. The bones of the nose are reduced to an extreme degree, and the openings of the nostrils, especially in the adult, are very large.

The teeth are remarkable for their development, and in the male the canines are long and sharp.

Alphonse Milne-Edwards has published, in his work on the "Natural History of the Mammalia," a detailed description of this monkey, accompanied by a colored plate, from which our engraving is copied. Unfortunately, the engraving cannot give any idea of the coloration of the animal, and hence we must briefly describe it in words.

The Moupin monkey is of considerable size, the adult male measuring one metre and forty centimetres from the extremity of the muzzle to the extremity of the tail. The face is short, turquoise-green in color; the eyes are large, with nut-brown iris; the nose is turned up at the point. It is to this latter peculiarity, which becomes all the more striking as the animal grows older, that the Moupin monkey is indebted for its generic name Rhinopithecus.

The skin around the eyes is greenish, and the nose and muzzle almost naked. But the cheek-bones, the jaws, and the superciliary arches, are covered with thick hair. On the forehead, this hair, which is of a bright reddish-yellow color, is mixed with darker hairs tipped with black. The upper part of the head is covered with grayish-black hair, mixed with rust-color; it forms a sort of skull-cap, and is directed toward the back of the head.

The nape of the neck and the shoulders are of the same color as the crown of the head, but the back, and especially the posterior portion of the trunk, is, of a more lively and brilliant hue, owing to the presence of numerous yellowish-gray hairs, with reflex of silver. In old individuals the hairs attain the length of ten centimetres (nearly four inches). On the outside of the arms similar hairs are to be seen, though of duller hue, and on the front of the thighs and legs there is a stripe of iron-gray. But the hinder and outside aspect of the thighs is of a very light yellow, and the inner surfaces of the thighs and legs rust-colored, changing to reddish on the upper side of the feet.

The hair of the anterior hands is gray. The tail is thick and tufted, dark gray at the root and whity gray at the tip.

The female is distinguished from the male by certain differences of coloration. In the former the side of the neck is gray rather than yellowish, and the tail is of a dull and uniform color. In the young monkeys the skull-cap is small, and the sides of the face are ornamented with a sort of whiskers, which disappear in the adult.

The natives give to the species the name of Kin-tsin-heou, i. e., Brown-and-gold monkey. They hunt it for the sake of its skin, which they use as a preventive against rheumatism.

In the same region with the Rhinopithecus there live in small troops, on the most inaccessible wooded declivities, other monkeys who display extreme agility, and who hide in caves, like the Magots or apes of Algeria or Gibraltar. These monkeys, it appears, were once very common here, one old hunter having boasted, in the hearing of M. David, of having killed seven or eight hundred of them in one year. Now, however, they are met with but seldom. With their very short tail and the long hair covering their bodies, they resemble the Magot, properly so called, but they are heavy built, and the face is longer. One individual, sent to the museum by the Abbé David, is eighty centimetres (2 ft. 712 in.) in length; his head is very large compared to his body; the face is bare and flesh-colored, darker and mottled around the eyes, and brownish about the mouth. Tufted whiskers of a bright gray adorn the sides of the head, and the forehead and the crown of the head are covered with short hairs, of a dull-brown color. The hair of the nape of the neck and of the shoulders is nearly as long as that of the Moupin monkey, and dark in color. The breast and belly are grayish. The anterior hands are small, while the posterior hands are well developed and heavily covered with hair on the upper surface. The tail is rudimentary, and the callosities well marked.

The female is smaller than the male; her skin is of a more uniform color, and softer, and her whiskers are not at all so long.

This species, called by Alphonse Milne-Edwards Macacus Thihetanus, would seem to be far more brutish than the preceding, for in the male the bony ridges of the skull are very prominent, and resemble those seen in the head of the gorilla.

In a species from Cochin-China, discovered by David, and described by Isidore Geoffrey St.-Hilaire, under the name of Macaque oursin, the cranium presents similar ridges, but far less developed. From the information gathered by M. David, it would appear that there exist in Eastern Tibet at least two other species of large, long-tailed monkeys; of these, the one is said to be of a greenish-yellow color, and the other of a deep black.—La Nature.