Global team of scientists describes new genus of African monkey: First in 83 years

New Haven, Conn. Thanks to a globe-spanning collaboration and an animal found in a farmer's cornfield in Tanzania, a new genus of living monkey has been characterized, marking the first such discovery in 83 years, according to a report this week in Science Express.

The new African monkey, Rungwecebus kipunji, was first described scientifically last year based only on photographs. At that time, scientists placed the reclusive monkey, which has only been found in two remote locations in Africa, into the genus Lophocebus, commonly known as mangabeys. Shortly thereafter, one of these monkeys was caught and died in a farmer's trap.

With the first real specimen at hand, a team of scientists, organized by Tim Davenport of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Tanzania, was able to closely examine the monkey's physical characteristics and analyze samples of tissue on a molecular level. Their research has concluded that Kipunji, the common name given the monkey, belongs to an entirely new genus.

"This is exciting news because it shows that the 'age of discovery' is by no means over," says William Stanley, a co-author of the study and Collection Manager in the Division of Mammals at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, which now houses the world's only specimen of this forest-dwelling monkey.

"This was an amazing collaborative effort," said Eric Sargis, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Yale, and co-author on the study. While the assignment of the monkey's genus was initially based on previously described characteristics and how it looked in photos, with an actual specimen to study, experts in anatomy and molecular classification joined the study. The skeleton and soft tissues were analyzed at the Field Museum. "Only by uniting information from several sub-disciplines were we able to conclude that Kipunji represents a new genus."

Contact: Janet Rettig Emanuel
Yale University

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