Primate taxonomy for the new millennium

Four gibbon genera proposed

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Thomas Geissmann
Gibbon Research Lab., Hannover

A workshop with the title "Primate Taxonomy for the New Millennium" was held in Orlando, Florida, U.S.A., 25-29 February 2000. The workshop was organized by Don Melnick, Russell Mittermeier and John Oates. Participants of the workshop included 22 specialists of all major taxonomic groups of primates.

The aim of the workshop was to produce a working list of all known primate taxa as the basis for conservation action. The list is not definitive by definition. Not only is our knowledge and understanding of primate systematics and phylogeny consistently changing, but also will different taxonomists usually produce different lists. The list produced during the workshop, however, represents as much of a consensus as was possible and certainly has a chance of being useful for a number of years. Where it proved difficult to reach a consensus on the validity of a taxon, participants leaned towards splitting rather than lumping.

The endproduct is a taxonomic listing covering over 300 primate species and over 600 taxa. The list indicates the countries where each taxon occurs and identifies problematic taxa or taxonomic groups which require additional research (field/ distributions/ morphological/ genetic etc.).

The results of this workshop will be published in time for the IPS Congress in Adelaide, Australia, January 2001. This listing will be the basis for the IUCN Red Data List, including the Species Information System (SIS) and RAMAS software (currently underdevelopment) and the Threatened Primate Species Action Plan, as well as for promoting research on distributions, taxonomy and systematics, for conservation in the field and captive management.

The Asian Primates List was compiled by Douglas Brandon-Jones, Ardith A. Eudey, Thomas Geissmann, Don J. Melnick, Juan Carlos Morales, Myron Shekelle, and Caro Beth Stewart.

The one major change concerning gibbons is that the 4 subgenera (Bunopithecus, Hylobates, Nomascus and Symphalangus) are elevated to genus rank. Hoolocks (Bunopithecus) may eventually need a new genus name, however, because the type of Bunopithecus sericus is a fossil which appears to be an entirely different genus (Colin Groves, pers. comm.).


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