Episode 220 – Gee’s Golden Langur: A Telltale Tail

“…and today we’re talking about a curious king with a golden crown. But more on that later.”

When you’re the king of the swingers it means you’ve reached the top and had to stop. But balancing at the top branches of an Indian forest requires considerable skill. For a monkey that spends most of his time in the forest canopy, jumping from branch to branch is just a part of life. But one poorly aimed leap could mean the end of your monkeying around. But learning to adapt to a risky lifestyle is the way of the golden langur in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Description of the Golden Langur

  • Gibbon-sized monkey with a thick golden coat of unkempt hair
  • It has a black face, red eyes, and a luscious lionesque mane of gold that makes the monkey look like it currently has its hands on one of those zappy science balls.
  • It’s like a really smart sunflower
  • Its fur actually changes color with the seasons. In the summer, its fur is white or cream-colored. In the fall and winter it becomes golden.

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words Measure Up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We don’t have a new Measure Up intro! 

  • Chim Chim from Speed Racer
  • Curious George from Curious George
  • Diddy Kong from Donkey Kong Country
  • Abu from Aladdin


  • 50–75 centimeters (20–30 in) without the tail. The tail more than doubles their length. 
  • Considering the length of a Colgate toothbrush is about 7 inches, how many langurs would go into the combined length of toothbrushes used at the record number of people brushing their teeth simultaneously
  • Hint: The record was broken in 2007 in India and was organized by Colgate-Palmolive India.
  • 41,300 Langurs. There were 177,003 people brushing their teeth. 


  • 10.8 kilograms (24 lb)
  • How many langurs go into the amount of combined weight that Rohtash Chaudhary pushed up in one minute (not counting his body weight) when he beat the record for most pushups in a minute with a 80 pound pack?
  • Hint: Choudhary is from India, and he set the record in 2016 with 15 house bricks on his back. 
  • 170 langurs. He did 51 pushups in a minute and the combined weight from each push up would be 4,080 lbs.

Fast Facts about the Golden Langur

  • Range: Lives specifically in a small section shared between Bhutan and India
  • Diet: Eats fruit, leaves, seeds, and flowers

Major Fact: Telltale Tail

Everyone knows that tails are what separate monkeys and apes. But monkey tails aren’t all the same. 

Some monkeys have prehensile tails, which means that they are flexible and articulated enough to wrap around tree branches and grab onto things. Other monkeys don’t have that ability, even though they have long tails. The biggest determining factor of which one you have seems to be the ocean, and which side of it the monkey is on. 

New world monkeys in the Americas like (the spider monkey) have prehensile tails while old world monkeys (like the golden langur) don’t. One of the theories as to why monkey tails are different is the vine theory.

The theory is that the tropical forests of the new world have a larger network of tangle vines that connect trees than old world forests. Monkeys in the Americas use the vines to travel through trees. Since vines are potentially treacherous holds when climbing, prehensile tails act as a tether to use in case the vine they are holding breaks. Since prehensile tails are more of an energy cost than regular tails, old world monkeys never had the need to invest points into it.

But even in the old world, there’s a big difference between baboon tails and langur tails. Even though they aren’t prehensile, golden langurs have long, prominent tails. What are they for if they can’t grab on to tree branches? 

Long tails are usually seen in monkeys that spend a lot of time in trees, whereas baboons with shorter tails spend more time on the ground. 

Langurs use their tail for balance. When they are balancing on tree branches it provides a counter wait they have a lot of control over. When they jump from branch to branch, it also provides balance as they sail through the air. 

However, a study in 1970 noted that many old world monkeys have semi-prehensile tails. In the study, they observed that lab raised monkeys like the Java monkey would use their tails as tools to interact with their environment. They can’t wrap their tail around something but they may be able to hook it around an object to provide leverage. 

Ending: So hang out in a tree, brush your golden locks, and use your tail to your advantage like the golden langur here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.