Bless You, Myanmar Pug Monkey!

2010/11/10
By Jess

Photo source: Dr. Thomas Geismann; With no photos yet of a living Myanmar snub-nosed monkey, this image was reconstructed using Photoshop based on a Yunnan snub-nosed monkey and the carcass of the newly discovered species, the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey.

International Primate Experts have recently found a new species of snub-nosed or pub-nosed monkeys in the jungles of northern Myanmar. The monkey has been scientifically named Rhinopithecus strykeri, in honor of the president and founder of the Arcus Foundation (an organization that specializes in the conservation and protection of great apes), Jon Stryker. However, its common name is the Myanmar Pug Monkey. This is the first species of snub-nosed monkeys ever to be discovered in Myanmar, with the majority found in China and Vietnam. The monkeys have been known to specifically inhabit the Maw River area and the Kachin state in northeastern Myanmar. This area is in between the Mekong River and the Salween River, two major barriers that may have been the cause for the late discovery of the species.

However, locals are quite familiar and are long aware of the monkeys. They have been calling the monkey mey nwoah (in a local dialect of their area), which translates to “monkey with an upturned face.” No video footage has yet been obtained of the new Snub-nosed monkeys but here is a video of other snub-nosed monkeys, who have a very similar appearance to the new species, in their natural habitat. A physical description of the new species is described as having a full body of dark, blackish fur with the exception of some white fur around the perineal area, the ear tufts, and the chin. Also, the monkeys have extremely long tails, measuring about 140% of their body size. It is said to be the largest snub-nosed monkey discovered, to date.

Despite the fact that this is the only species of snub-nosed monkeys in Myanmar, what really makes the Myanmar Pug Monkey unique is the fact that they sneeze as a result of rain. According to villagers, the monkeys are easy to locate on wet days because they tend to make an extreme amount of noise when it is raining. The monkeys sneeze because rainwater drips into their noses and to evade this happening, they spend hours sitting with their heads tucked in between their knees on rainy days.

It is believed that there is only 260-330 monkeys of this species still living and this number is within the range of the IUCN Red List ( a list that pertains to endangered species). Although his species has only recently been discovered, it has long been facing multiple dangers. Chinese logging companies have been interfering with the monkeys’ area and have been increasing hunting pressure. Some procedures will be taken in order to protect and lengthen the lifespan of the newly found species to ensure that the sneezing Myanmar Pug Monkeys will be around for a long time.

How do the other species of snub-nosed monkeys compare and differ from the Myanmar pug monkey? What are the immediate and ultimate causes of sneezing because of the rain? What kind of behavior is the monkey sneezing as a reaction to the rain? Is this behavior innate or learned? Why?

  • dawood

    Nice post Jess. I never knew that snub nosed monkeys existed until i read your article. I did some research to see what i could find on this animal and why it seeezes when it rains. i found out that it sneezes to stop itself from drowning when it rains, because its nostrils are exposed and if it didn’t it would die. to prevent this from happening it sits with its head between its two legs and sneezes when it rains. This behavior is innate because it is subconciously performed and its etched into the animals DNA.

    Links
    http://brandimposter.com/rhinopithecus-strykeri-was-founded-in-north-myanmar-20103178.html

  • Nick

    Very nice post Jess! Well, since the monkey has a flat nose, and it is not covered by any protection, sneezing in the rain is innate. I know that this behavior is innate, because when water goes in your nose, you don’t think to yourself, ok water just flew in my nose it is time to sneeze, when water goes in your nose there is a reaction and causes the monkey to sneeze. Another example, is if you get hit with a ball really hard, you don’t think to yourself that you have to cry, it just happens from triggering a nerve. If you are still confused on my examples the website below should clear this up as well.

    http://www.uic.edu/classes/bios/bios101/zanimalbehavior/sld008.htm

  • Emilio

    Great post Jess! I found it really interesting! To answer your question about the similarities between this Myanmar Pug Monkey, and others of the “rhinopithecus” family. The rhinopithecus family is made up of “snub-nosed” monkeys, and in reality, they are very different from one another besides the shape of their noses. They are very variant in size and hair color, the Golden snub-nosed monkey has a very unique skin color on its face. Here is information on each of the other snub-nosed monkeys, so far there is very little information on this Myanmar Pug Monkey, so I cannot really compare it to these.

    Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey

    http://www.animalinfo.org/species/primate/pygaavun.htm

    Golden Snub-nosed Monkey

    http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/golden_snub-nosed_monkey

    Yunnan Snub-nosed Monkey(Myanmar image posted on the blog photoshopped primarily from this monkey)

    http://www.animalinfo.org/species/primate/rhinbiet.htm

  • Aurora

    This is a really great post Jess! I did some research and found more details about their endangerment. To add onto what jess said about the logging companies, by cutting down trees it releases the soil. This can lead to landslides, which also destroy their environment. As more logging sites appear, there are also more traps and “demand for bush meat.”
    The article also went on to explain how the sneezing could give away their location to hunters and other predators, which is another reason for their endangerment. So why did the snub-nosed monkey evolve to have such an upturned face? Experts say that they would have to conduct more research on he newly-found species, which could take up to a year.

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/10/101027-snub-nosed-monkey-sneezes-new-species-science-discovered-eaten/
    http://www.ottawacitizen.com/technology/snub+nosed+monkey+found+Myanmar/3733114/story.html?cid=megadrop_story

  • Joe

    Very interesting Jess. To answer your question what is the immediate cause of sneezing, I did a little research. Sneezing is an innate behavior (as pointed out by Nick and Dawood), it is caused by foreign particles irritating the Nasal Mucosa. The sneeze is a convulsive explosion from the lungs, exiting the nose and mouth. The explosion is attempting to discharge the foreign particles. The ultimate cause in any animal is to rid the body of unwanted foreign particles. Especially here, because the water would stop air circulation and drown the monkey. If that was to occur the species would die out and none of them would meet there evolutionary goal.
    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003060.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sneeze

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