Watch for Dead Branches

Watch for Dead Branches

Scientists spend much time studying the aerial acrobatics of some primates, those four—limbed creatures that ravel so effortlessly through the highest trees. Among the most outstanding of the tree—dwelling trapeze artists is the gibbon. The ease and speed with which it moves through the trees is nothing short of extraordinary. However, even this most efficient acrobat can misjudge distances or at times the strength of a branch as it leaps from tree to tree. The possibility of falling and being injured is always present, because this is the gibbon's mode of living.

A number of scientists currently studying the gibbon's lifestyle have found that aerial accidents are not uncommon. This may seem strange to the casual observer, for gibbons appear to be unerringly accurate as they leap from branch to branch, often at a greater speed than a person can run. Moreover, the flight of the gibbons is often depicted in documentary films.

Apparently gibbons have never seen these documentaries, for recent research definitely indicates that one out of four adult gibbons has broken at least one bone during its lifetime. A number of them have experienced frequent accidents, and among the individuals studied several showed as many as seven healed fractures. Since these were specimens that had lived to "talk" about their accident, one can only wonder how many such aerial accidents are fatal.

From the book: 
Our Fascinating Earth