The Glorious Creature That Moved Me To Tears

This is a Coquerel’s sifaka (pronounced shi-fahk or shi-fah-ka depending on who you ask), once considered to be a subspecies of Verreaux’s sifaka but since elevated to its own species. Its scientific name is Propithecus coquereli.

Last semester, I took a class called Explorations in Primate Anatomy. The overarching assignment of the semester was to select a “chosen species” and investigate, in detail, its distribution/habitat/behavior, cranial morphology, dental morphology, and postcranial morphology.

I spent three months immersed in this animal. (Well, sometimes I was looking at P. verreaxi bones but that’s just because we didn’t have the Coquerel, and besides they are extremely closely related and primatologists are notorious splitters anyway…)

Two weeks ago I went to the Bronx Zoo with my mammalogy class. We happily went around looking at geladas and giraffes and sea lions and brown bears and polar bears and tigers and then we walked into the Madagascar building and this is the FIRST THING I SEE.

I teared up. Not joking.

I was SO EXCITED AND SO HAPPY to see this little guy and I can hardly tell you why – I just spent so long with his species that I feel this very close affinity and to see one in person – the real, living creature to which the skulls I spent so much time with belonged – was just incredibly moving. And then he looked right at me and I pretty much did cry, looking at his adorable little face.

It’s a good thing that I’m not likely to ever run into a living Neandertal. I think if I ever met a Neandertal in person I’d expire on the spot.

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