Scientists say new monkey requires new genus

In Brief

Primatology

May 12, 2006|By DENNIS O'BRIEN

Close inspection of a previously unknown, arboreal African monkey, discovered by scientists last year, shows that it's an entirely new and different type of animal than experts initially thought they had found.

Rungwecebus kipunji is the new name for a monkey with grayish brown fur, a mainly curled-up tail, a crown of erect hair and a honk-like bark.

The shy mountain-dwelling creature was first described by researchers last May based only on photographs of one seen in Tanzania. Because of the monkey's appearance, they knew they had a new species, and initially classified it in the established genus Lophocebus because of its similarity to a type of monkey known as a mangabey.

But when one of the monkeys was found last year in a trap set in a cornfield, scientists got their first close-up look at the animal's physique, skeleton, tissues and DNA. They have concluded that it's more closely related to the baboon and that it should be considered not only a new species but a new genus of primate - the first such primate discovery in Africa in 83 years.

The findings were reported by the Wildlife Conservation Society in today's edition of the journal Science.

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