Researchers affiliated with Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History have published the first detailed scientific account of a recently discovered monkey species living in a remote part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is only the second new species of African monkey discovered since the mid-1980s.
|The typical Lesula has a naked face and muzzle and a mane of long, grizzled blond hairs. Some have a cream-colored vertical nose stripe. Photo copyright: Kimio Honda.|
The slender, medium-sized primate - called a Lesula (luh-SOO-la) and roughly similar to a vervet monkey - represents a rare discovery of a previously undocumented mammal, and helps establish the sparsely settled central Congo as an important source of biodiversity, researchers said. They describe the animal in detail in the Sept. 12 issue of the journal PLOS ONE.
''This was a totally unexpected find, and we knew we had something unusual and possibly unknown when we first saw the animal. But it was not until we had the genetic and morphological analyses of our collaborating team that we knew we really had a new species,'' said John and Terese Hart, conservation biologists with the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation and curatorial affiliates of the Peabody.
The Harts and members of their field teams were the first scientists to encounter a Lesula in 2007. They saw a captive in a remote village, and subsequently observed it in the wild.
The Lesula (Cercopithecus lomamiensis) seems to have escaped previous scientific notice because of its remote habitat, largely unexplored by professional biologists until recently. The Lesula is known to live exclusively within only 17,000 square kilometers of mature evergreen forests in DRC's eastern central basin, between the middle Lomami and upper Tshuapa rivers.
''Major discoveries like this are still possible, mainly thanks to dedicated field biologists like the Harts,'' said Eric Sargis, professor of anthropology at Yale and a co-author of the paper. ''And if we're finding new species of primates, then who knows how many new species of small mammals or lizards or insects, just to name a few, might be out there. There's certainly a lot of undiscovered biodiversity in this region.''