May 11, 2006

New monkey species is more unique than thought

A new species of monkey identified in Tanzania's highlands last year is an even more remarkable find than thought -- it is a new genus of animal, scientists said on Thursday.

The new monkey, at first called the highland mangabey but now known as kipunji, is more closely related to baboons than to mangabey monkeys, but in fact deserves its own genus and species classification, the researchers reported in the journal Science.

So they have re-named it Rungwecebus kipunji, and it is the first new genus of a living primate from Africa to be identified in 83 years.

"This is exciting news because it shows that the age of discovery is by no means over," said William Stanley, mammal collection manager at The Field Museum in Chicago, which has a dead specimen of the grayish-brown monkey.

"Finding a new genus of the best-studied group of living mammals is a sobering reminder of how much we have to learn about our planet's biodiversity," added Link Olson of the University of Alaska Museum, who worked with Stanley and others on the report.

Scientific classification arranges plants and animals along a hierarchy meant to illustrate how closely things are related to one another.

Swedish botanist Carl von Linne, often known as Linnaeus, devised the system used as the basis for modern taxonomy -- class, order, family, genus, species. Humans, for instance, belong to the Mammalia class, the primate order, the hominid family, the genus Homo and the species sapiens -- Homo sapiens for short.

The new African monkey, whose discovery was reported in Science almost precisely a year ago, was originally placed in the genus Lophocebus, commonly known as mangabeys. Rare and shy, it was identified only by photographs.

But then a farmer trapped one and it died and scientists could get a close look, including doing some DNA testing.

Olson's genetic analysis showed the monkey is most closely related to baboons in the genus Papio, and not to mangabeys.

"Had we gotten these surprising results based on a single gene, we'd have been pretty skeptical, but each of the genes we analyzed either firmly supported the grouping of Kipunji with baboons or failed to support a close relationship between Kipunji and other mangabeys," Olson said in a statement.

An adult Kipunji is about 3 feet tall with a long tail, long grayish-brown fur, a black face, hands and feet.

Adults make a distinctive, loud, low-pitched "honk-bark" call. They live in mountainside trees at elevations of up to 8,000 feet and eat leaves, shoots, flowers, bark, fruit, lichen, moss and invertebrates.

The last new genus of African monkey to be named was Allen's swamp monkey, discovered in 1907 but not recognized as a new genus until 1923.

"To find, in the 21st century, an entirely new species of large monkey living in the wild is surprising enough. To find one that can be placed in a new genus, and that sheds new light on the evolutionary history of the monkeys of Africa and Eurasia as a whole is truly remarkable," said John Oates, a professor of Anthropology at Hunter College in New York.

"This discovery also reinforces the view that mountains in southern Tanzania have played an important -- and until recently unexpected -- role as a refuge for many species long extinct elsewhere."

May 02, 2006

Ailing Glenn Ford Skips Birthday Event

LOS ANGELES - Glenn Ford was saluted on his 90th birthday with praise from his fellow actors and a screening of his 1946 film "Gilda."

Ford didn't attend Monday night's event hosted by American Cinematheque at its theater, Grauman's Egyptian. Because of his fragile health, caused by a series of strokes, he has been confined to his Beverly Hills home and uses a wheelchair.

"Thank you to everybody that is wishing me a happy birthday," Ford said in a videotaped message. "I wish I could thank every one of you personally with good wishes to all of you. ... I wish I were up and around, but I'm doing the best that I can. ... There's so much I have to be grateful for."

The event attracted a standing-room-only crowd; a mixture of film veterans and movie lovers.

A surprise feature of the evening was a 1937 musical short "Night in Manhattan," which marked Ford's first appearance on the screen. He played a nightclub host introducing singing and dancing acts.

His career soared after he co-starred with Rita Hayworth in "Gilda" and with Bette Davis in "A Stolen Life," also released in 1946.

Shirley Jones, who co-starred with Ford in the 1963 comedy "The Courtship of Eddie's Father," called him "one of the cornerstones of our industry, and there aren't many left."

Martin Landau, who appeared with Ford in 1959's "The Gazebo," said: "He was a giant. I'm still trying to be as good as Glenn Ford."

The Screen Actors Guild presented a plaque and honorary Hollywood Mayor Johnny Grant gave Ford's son, Peter, a replica of the actor's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Ford was born Gwyllyn Ford in Quebec, Canada, on May 1, 1916. He moved to California when he was 8. After acting in plays at Santa Monica High School and in local theater productions, he signed a contract with Columbia.

His best-known Westerns include "The Man From Colorado," "3:10 to Yuma," "Cowboy" and "Cimarron." He won acclaim as the New York City schoolteacher who reforms a rebellious high-school student played by Sidney Poitier in the 1955 classic "Blackboard Jungle."