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Great Seuss!..

The Lorax and the patas monkey both possess distinctive facial hair. Left: Dr. Seuss Enterprises. Right: Istock/Getty

Topics: Biology, Ecology, Environment, Humor, Philosophy

Near the town of Nanyuki

No Grickle-grass grows

And the wind smells fast and sweet when it blows.

Nevertheless, some scholars propose

That this is the home of the Lorax.

Of the dozens of children’s books, Theodor Seuss Geisel wrote under his pen name — Dr. Seuss — The Lorax was reportedly his favorite. Published in 1971, it tells the story of deforestation and environmental destruction by the Once-ler and his family, despite the protestations of “sort of a man” — the curious Lorax.

Most readers have assumed that the Lorax was a character born in Geisel’s extraordinary mind. But a study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution on 23 July1 suggests that Geisel was inspired by a monkey that lives across West and East Africa.

“It began at a formal dinner,” says Nathaniel Dominy, an anthropologist and evolutionary biologist at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where Geisel once studied. Dominy was seated beside Donald Pease, the Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities at Dartmouth. “I have two young kids, and because he’s the Geisel professor, I figured Dr. Seuss was some common ground,” says Dominy.

He told Pease that during fieldwork in Kenya, he had often thought that the patas monkey (Erythrocebus patas) looks as if it walked off the page of a Dr. Seuss book.

'I speak for the trees': Could this monkey be Dr. Seuss’s Lorax? Colin Barras, Nature

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