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New monkey species identified

Sept. 13, 2012
Courtesy of PLoS One
and World Science staff

Sci­en­tists have iden­ti­fied a new spe­cies of Af­ri­can mon­key, lo­cally known as the lesula. The find­ings are de­scribed in the Sep. 12 is­sue of the re­search jour­nal PLoS One

It is only the sec­ond new spe­cies of Af­ri­can mon­key dis­cov­ered in the last 28 years, bi­ol­o­gists said.

The lesula, or Cer­co­p­ithe­cus lo­ma­mien­sis (cour­tesy Hart et al./ PLoS One)


The first lesula found was a young cap­tive an­i­mal seen in 2007 in a school di­rec­tor’s com­pound in the town of Opala in the Dem­o­crat­ic Re­pub­lic of Con­go. The young mon­key bore a re­sem­blance to a known spe­cies called the owl faced mon­key, but its col­ora­t­ion was dif­fer­ent.

Over the fol­low­ing three years, the study au­thors found another le­su­la in the wild, de­ter­mined its ge­net­ic and ana­tom­i­cal dis­tinc­tive­ness, and made in­i­tial ob­serva­t­ions of its be­hav­ior and ecol­o­gy. The an­i­mal was giv­en the sci­en­tif­ic name Cer­co­p­ithe­cus lo­mamien­sis.

Its range is be­lieved to cov­er about 6,500 square miles (17,000 square km) in cen­tral Dem­o­crat­ic Re­pub­lic of Con­go, in what was one of Con­go’s last bi­o­log­ic­ally un­ex­plored for­est blocks. Al­though its range is re­mote and only lightly set­tled at pre­s­ent, the lesula is threat­ened by lo­cal bush meat hunt­ing, re­search­ers warned.

The chal­lenge for con­serva­t­ion now in Con­go is to in­ter­vene be­fore losses be­come “defini­tive,” said John and Terese Hart of the Lukuru Wild­life Re­search Founda­t­ion in Kin­sha­sa, Dem­o­crat­ic Re­pub­lic of Con­go, who led the proj­ect. They not­ed that spe­cies with small ranges like the lesula can move from “vul­ner­a­ble” to “se­ri­ously en­dan­gered” in just a few years.


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Homepage image: Juvenile lesulas. (cour­tesy Hart et al./ PLoS One)







 

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Scientists have identified a new species of African monkey, locally known as the lesula. The findings are described in the Sep. 12 issue of the research journal PLoS One. This is only the second new species of African monkey discovered in the last 28 years, biologists said. The first lesula found was a young captive animal seen in 2007 in a school director’s compound in the town of Opala in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The young monkey bore a resemblance to a known species called the owl faced monkey, but its coloration was different. Over the following three years, the study authors located additional lesula in the wild, determined its genetic and anatomical distinctiveness, and made initial observations of its behavior and ecology. The animal was given the scientific name Cercopithecus lomamiensis. Its range is believed to cover about 6,500 square miles (17,000 square km) in central Democratic Republic of Congo, in what was one of Congo’s last biologically unexplored forest blocks. Although its range is remote and only lightly settled at present, the lesula is threatened by local bush meat hunting, researchers warned. The challenge for conservation now in Congo is to intervene before losses become “definitive,” said John and Terese Hart of the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, who led the project. They noted that species with small ranges like the lesula can move from “vulnerable” to “seriously endangered” in just a few years.