Thursday, October 6, 2011

Creature Feature: Howler Monkey.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Enough with the creepy stuff - show us some cute and fuzzy! We haven't had any wild fuzzy things in a while. Maybe a monkey would be nice.

Wait a minute. Have we EVER done a monkey, here? We've done lemurs and a few other primates, but never an actual monkey. So, for those of you who like monkeys, here you go:

A Howler monkey is any particularly loud member of the genus Alouatta. They range from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, so they are prime mascot candidates for any and all rainforest conservation programs. They eat mostly leaves, but have been known to raid chicken coops as well. They sleep 5 hours a day, but for those other nine hours...hoooo boy.

Howler monkeys are the loudest land animal. Their guttural vocalizations, rightfully called "howls," can carry for up to three kilometers. Not only do they have loose skin around their throats to amplify their calls, but their hyoid bone (a bone that, for us, is between the chin and the thryoid gland) vibrates extra. Howler monkeys are the only mammals to have hyoid bones like this; birds and dinosaurs did/do, too.


The actual purpose of these howls is foggy. The current theory is that the males of howlers are super-territorial, so the howl keeps other males out. It may also protect the male's mates (with howlers having a 1:4 male-female ratio).  Until we get a translator for howler monkey, we will not know for sure.

Howler monkeys have a few other neat things going for them besides their voices. Like humans, howler monkeys can see the RGB spectrum. The howler monkey was a deity to the ancient Mayans, who considered it the patron animal of writers and artists. We would have said "patron animal of rock stars," but that works, too.

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