The course of thinking on the taxonomy of woolly monkeys (Lagothrix) and its effect on their conservation

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Grace L. Miller


yellow-tailed, woolly monkey, Oreonax, Lagothrix, conservation, taxonomy


Woolly monkeys provide an example of the connection between conservation and taxonomy. Whether there is one woolly monkey genus (Lagothrix), or two (Lagothrix and Oreonax), has been debated over the last decade. The outcome of this debate is not only that there is one genus (Lagothrix), but also an emphasis on the need for, and influence of, taxonomy in conservation. By splitting genera or species, population figures decrease, stressing the need for action. To group genera or species, genetic diversity and phylogenetic past must be explored, promoting further research into the species. Either classification should promote conservation. The yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Lagothrix flavicauda) is an example of this process, as the academic debate surrounding its classification highlighted the need for recognition in conservation.The aim of this paper is to provide a background on the taxonomic history of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey and discuss the outcomes within a conservation context. By doing so, I suggest that the debate surrounding the taxonomy of the woolly monkeys promoted the publication of new papers documenting the species and encouraged new conservation programmes. The yellow-tailed woolly monkey is still a Critically Endangered species; now that there is a relative consensus on its genus, focus should be put on continuing conservation efforts.

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