These fluffy, blue-faced monkeys from northern China reveal how extreme cuddliness evolved as a survival trait.
According to National Geographic:
The golden snub-nosed monkey is one of five related species-remnants of once widespread populations whose ranges were squeezed by climate change after the last ice age. Enduring groups, living in territorial bands that can top 400 animals, are being squeezed again by logging, human settlement, and hunters wanting meat, bones (said to have medicinal properties), and luxurious fur. Many have been pushed into high-altitude isolation, where they leap across branches, traverse icy rivers, and weather long winters at nearly 10,000 feet, shielded by that coveted coat.
About 20,000 of the golden variety remain on Earth. Some 4,000 inhabit the mountainous region where Chinese officials set up the Zhouzhi National Nature Reserve to protect the species.
The reigning theory of why these monkeys have such alien-looking nostrils is that it might protect them from frostbite - which affects any exposed body part that sticks out. Read more about golden snub-nosed monkeys, and see more pictures, at National Geographic.
Thanks, Marilyn Terrell!