In one of the Amazon regions hardest hit by deforestation, Brazilian researchers identified a new species of monkey that was mistaken for some of its relatives for a few decades before it was finally revealed to the scientific community.
This is the tailor’s buffalo monkey (Mico schneideri), whose elegant fur, silver in front, with tones of orange and lead, helps to distinguish it from the various other members of the genus of tamarins that inhabit neighboring forest areas.
Everything indicates that the species originates exclusively from Mato Grosso and occurs only in the region between the Juruena and Teles Pires rivers in municipalities such as Paranaíta and Alta Floresta.
Details of the discovery can be found in an article in Scientific Reports. The study was signed by Rodrigo Costa-Araújo from the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, Gustavo Canale from the Federal University of Mato Grosso and researchers from other institutions in Brazil and Great Britain.
Although it is home to 20% of the world’s primate diversity, the Amazon continues to surprise the scientific community with new species of monkeys as there is still a lack of data on the geographic distribution and characteristics of each animal.
This led the study team to suspect that some animals stored in the Goeldi Museum, which are attributed to another species of common marmosets, the Mico emiliae, were not correctly classified.
“The three previous papers that examined these specimens only used the coat color for study, and that with a few specimens. Small samples are always a problem [para a confiabilidade de um estudo], and the coat color of the marmosets of the new species seems to “fade” over time, “explained Costa-Araújo Folha. “Actually, the animals are very different when we observe specimens recently collected in the wild.”
In fact, that made the difference to the new research, he says: more excursions to find more common marmosets, along with DNA analysis of the different species in the genus Mico and accurate mapping of the geographic distribution of each animal.
The gathering of all this information allowed us to hit the hammer and confirm that the Mato Grosso monkey is indeed a new species. The animal’s scientific and popular name pays homage to the Brazilian primatologist and geneticist Horácio Schneider (1948-2018).
Another important note is the apparently exclusive occurrence of the animal in the so-called Interfluvium (area between rivers) Juruena-Teles Pires. Costa-Araújo explains that the geographical distribution of the various species of the genus of tamarins tends to be the same as that of the various Amazonian regions.
One can imagine in these cases that the formation of the current course of the river would have separated and isolated the ancestral populations of primates in such a way that they became different species over the course of many millennia. “But we can’t say that. I look for the answer to this question in my postdoc research, ”he says.
Little is known about the behavior and eating habits of most Amazonian marmosets, although group members tend to choose a varied menu that includes juice from trees, fruits, and small animals. Further studies are also needed to understand how the striking differences in fur between the species came about, says Costa-Araújo.