Anthropologists Discover New Monkey Species
By James Devitt | September 14, 2012
A new species of monkey has been discovered in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by a team of researchers that included NYU anthropologists Andrew Burrell and Anthony Tosi as well as former NYU doctoral student Kate Detwiler.
Their findings were reported in the online journal PLoS One.
In 2007, a previously undescribed monkey known locally as “lesula” was found in the forests of DRC during a field survey. Named Cercopithecus lomamiensis, it is the second new species of African monkey to be discovered in the past 28 years. The researchers suggested C. lomamiensis remained unknown because the region it populates was not explored by scientists until relatively recently.
C. lomamiensis is a member of the tribe Cercopithecini, or guenons, which are endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and occupy a range of habitats. It is a medium-sized monkey, with adult males measuring 18 to 26 inches and weighing nine to 15 pounds.
The research team made the determination it had discovered a new species after employing a series of methodological approaches. These included anatomical comparisons, 3-D measures of skull shape, and DNA analyses. All showed the lesula to be distinct from other guenons. The genetic work, which was conducted at NYU, revealed that the lesula split from its closest relatives over 2 million years ago. The researchers bolstered these approaches with recorded measurements of C. lomamiensis’ vocal behavior, which showed frequencies similar to, but not the same as, other species.
“The discovery underlines the fact that we still have gaps in our most basic understanding of the natural world,” observes Burrell, a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Anthropology’s Center for the Study of Human Origins. “Moreover, it highlights a remarkable but poorly known forest.
“Recent surveys have shown that the forest also harbors okapi, bonobos, and elephants, as well as 10 other primate species or subspecies. While Congolean forests are under extreme threat, this forest is very remote and is an excellent candidate for conservation. If efforts are made now to protect it, the lesula and many other plant and animal species can be saved from extinction.”
Tosi is an affiliated researcher at the Center for the Study of Human Origins; Detwiler received her doctoral degree from NYU in 2010 and is now an assistant professor at Florida Atlantic University.
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RESEARCH ARTICLE (open access)
Lesula: A New Species of Cercopithecus Monkey Endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Implications for Conservation of Congo’s Central Basin
1 Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation, Kinshasa, Gombe, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2 Division of Vertebrate Zoology, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America, 3 Department of Anthropology, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, United States of America, 4Department of Anthropology, Hunter College of the City University of New York, New York, New York, United States of America, 5 New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, New York, New York, United States of America, 6 Center for the Study of Human Origins, Department of Anthropology, New York University, New York, New York, United States of America, 7 Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York, New York, United States of America, 8 Wildlife Conservation Society Zanaga Project, Wildlife Conservation Society Congo, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, 9 Department of Anthropology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America
In June 2007, a previously undescribed monkey known locally as “lesula” was found in the forests of the middle Lomami Basin in central Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We describe this new species as Cercopithecus lomamiensis sp. nov., and provide data on its distribution, morphology, genetics, ecology and behavior. C. lomamiensis is restricted to the lowland rain forests of central DRC between the middle Lomami and the upper Tshuapa Rivers. Morphological and molecular data confirm that C. lomamiensis is distinct from its nearest congener, C. hamlyni, from which it is separated geographically by both the Congo (Lualaba) and the Lomami Rivers. C. lomamiensis, like C. hamlyni, is semi-terrestrial with a diet containing terrestrial herbaceous vegetation. The discovery of C. lomamiensis highlights the biogeographic significance and importance for conservation of central Congo’s interfluvial TL2 region, defined from the upper Tshuapa River through the Lomami Basin to the Congo (Lualaba) River. The TL2 region has been found to contain a high diversity of anthropoid primates including three forms, in addition to C. lomamiensis, that are endemic to the area. We recommend the common name, lesula, for this new species, as it is the vernacular name used over most of its known range.
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Full article in Pdf file Lesula.journal.pone.0044271
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