1902 Encyclopedia > Ape > The Geographical Distribution of the Apes

(Part 29)


(D) Special Topics (cont.)

The Geographical Distribution of the Apes

The apes are, as far as is yet certainly known, at present almost confined to tropical latitudes. Their most northern limits in the Old World are Gibraltar (Macacus inuus), Moupin, in Thibet (Macacus thibetanus and Semnopithecus roxellanae), and Japan (Macacus speciosus). In the New World the highest northern latitude certainly known to be attained is 18° or 19° (Ateles melanochir) in Southern Mexico, but they possibly reach even latitude 23°. Father David, however, sees no reason (considering the severity of the climate of Moupin) why apes should not also be found in the mountains of Northern China, and the natives have repeatedly assured him they are to be found there. Southwards, apes are found to near the Cape of Good Hope, and the island of Timor (Macacus cynomolgus), in the Indian Archipelago, in the Old World, and to about 30° in Brazil and Paraguay, in the New World. As to vertical extent, a Semnopithecus has been seen near Simlah [Simla], at a height at 11,000 feet; Dr. Hooker saw monkeys in the Himalaya at an elevation above 800 feet; and Semnopithecus roxellanae and Macacus thibetanus were found by Father David inhabiting the Snowy Mountains of Moupin, in Thibet [Tibet], at an elevation of about 3000 metres, where frost and snow last several months. In Miocene times the ape range was more extensive -- namely, to Greece, Tuscany, the South of France, Zurich, Würtemberg, and even to Essex.

Some of the localities richest in monkeys are islands, such as Ceylon, Borneo, Sumatra, and Java; and apes are also found in Trinidad, and the island of Fernando Po. There are, however, certain islands which seem eminently well suited to support an ape population, where apes, nevertheless, are conspicuous by their absence. Such are the West Indian Islands, Madagascar, and New Guinea; moreover, no ape inhabits tropical Australia. These facts become the more remarkable, if, as Father David suspects, apes exist in Northern China today. Evidently it is not climate which prevents their existing in Central Europe, now. The continents of Africa, south of the Sahara; of Asia, south of the Himalaya; and of America, from Panama to the southern part of Brazil, are, with the islands before mentioned, the special ape regions of the existing fauna.

There is a remarkable difference between the ape population of the New and the Old World, the latter being inhabited exclusively by Simiadae, the former as exclusively by the Cebidoe. Europe has but a single ape species; and Asia, north of the Himalaya, has but the few found in Thibet [Tibet], China, and Japan. Africa, north of the Sahara, is zoologically a part of Europe, and there also Macacus inuus is found, which is the only African species of the genus. African apes are the chimpanzee and gorilla of the west coast, the former extending eastwards to 28° E. long; the Colobi (which are, in fact, but the African form of Semnopithecus), the long-tailed Cercopitheci, including mangabeys (or white-eyelid monkeys); and, lastly, the baboons, Cynocephali. The genus Cynocephalus extends into Arabia; but that, zoologically speaking, is a part of Africa. The Asiatic region possess the orang (Simia) (in Borneo and Sumatra), the long-armed apes (Hylobates), the Semnopitheci, and Macaci.

One form of Macacus, and a very peculiar one (M. niger), found is found in the islands Batchian and Celebes; and it is a noteworthy fact that this, the most baboon-like of all the Macaci, should only exist in a region so extremely remote from Africa. The genus Macacus is the most widely spread of any existing genus -- namely, from Gibraltar, North Africa, Thibet [Tibet] and Japan (perhaps even from Northern China), down to the island of Timor, and from the north-west of Africa in the west, to Batchian, Japan, and the Philippine Islands in the east. In ancient times this genus seems to have extended to France, and even to Essex. It is interesting to note that, in the Miocene period, the geographical range of the apes of India was much greater. Gibbon-like monkeys existed in the south of France, while forms intermediate between Semnopithecus and Macacus abounded in Greece.

In America, north of Panama, the genera as yet known to be represented are Chrysothrix, Nyctipithecus, Cebus, Ateles, Mycetes, and Hapale, in Veragua; Nytcipithecus; Cebus, Ateles and Mycetes in Costa Rica and Nicaragua; Ateles and Mycetes in Guatemala; and Ateles, in Southern Mexico. Brazil is, of course, the headquarters of the American apes; but different portions of that vast region have a somewhat different ape fauna. Thus the genus Eriodes appears in South-Eastern Brazil to represent the species of Ateles inhabiting the more northern and western parts of the empire. Southwards, the genera Cebus, Mycetes, Chrysothrix, and Callithrix extend furthest; but they do not probably all extend to the furthest limit yet known, namely, 30°S. The species found farthest south are Mycetes caraya, Cebus fatuellus, and Callithrix personatus.

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