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Desert Diary
Biology/No Monkeys


A well-known TV interviewer recently asked a guest that if evolution were true, then why are there still monkeys. That this supposedly well educated personality could ask such a question shows how deeply misunderstood evolution is. No one with a rudimentary knowledge of evolution would suggest that we're descended from monkeys nor, if we were, that monkeys therefore would have to be extinct.

Although changes occur through time within a species, it is another phenomenon that results in biological diversity. This is speciation, the splitting of species into separate species. Such splitting has occurred innumerable times since the last time there was a species that occurs in the ancestry of both monkeys and humans. That ancestor was neither monkey nor man; neither would evolve until millions of years later. Similarly, considering such creatures as our Chihuahuan Desert canines, the Mexican Wolf, Gray Fox, Kit Fox, and Coyote have in common a single species that all have descended from. But this ancestor was none of these, separated from its descendants by millions of years of evolution.

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Vervet Monkey

Vervet Monkey—related, but no ancestor. Photograph by Gary M. Stolz, courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.