STL Science Center

STL Science Center

25 July 2015

Monkey or Ape

©Nobu Tamura
Once in the past I wondered what made monkeys and apes different. The quick answer one usually hears is that a monkey has a tail while an ape does not. Looking at restorations and fossils of the four species in the genus Proconsul, then, would lead to the quick assertion that Proconsul was indeed an ape. However, being ancestral to apes and sitting hypothetically, and possibly firmly, at the base of that tree, where do we draw the line between the first ape and the "last" monkey on its way to apes? Is Proconsul a sophisticated monkey lacking a tail or is it a basal ape holding onto some monkey characteristics? I honestly hope to get a friend of mine to write that up for us this week, really quickly if possible, but I will do it on Tuesday and Wednesday if that is not possible; I probably need to read as many papers about the little simian as anyone else here that is curious. For now, though, enjoy this fairly standard restoration of Proconsul that is, as usual for the artist, very well thought out and put together and conveys a real sense of how the animal must have looked in action.

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