New species of monkey turns up in Congo

  • Updated: September 22, 2012 - 4:31 PM

Researchers stumbled upon a new species of monkey in a remote region in Africa. They were tipped off by its brilliant colors: a blond chest, red tail and very blue backside.

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Undated images released by the Public Library of Science and available Thursday Sept 13 2012 show a captive adult male Cercopithecus hamlyni, left, and an adult male Cercopithecus lomamiensis, right. Researchers have identified a new species of African monkey, locally known as the Lesula, right, described in the Sep. 12 issue of the open access journal PLOS ONE. This is only the second new species of African monkey discovered in the last 28 years. The monkey bears a resemblance to the owl faced monkey, left, but its coloration was unlike that of any other known species.

Photo: Noel Rowe, Maurice Emetshu, Associated Press - Ap

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Scientists have identified a new species of African monkey whose coloring "is unlike anything I've ever seen," as one of them put it. The monkey, known by people in the Democratic Republic of Congo as the lesula, has a blond chin and upper chest, in contrast to its dark limbs. It has a reddish-colored lower back and tail.

"And adult males have a huge bare patch of skin," on its backside, said researcher John Hart. "It's a brilliant blue, really pretty spectacular."

Hart is a field scientist with the Lukuru Foundation, a wildlife research group; his colleagues include his wife, Terese Hart. They reported their findings in the journal PLoS One.

The first lesula seen by researchers was the pet of a schoolgirl. It bore a strong resemblance to the owl-faced monkey, but the unusual coloring made the researchers suspect that it was something new. They were able to identify more lesulas in the wild and find hunters with specimens of the monkey. They analyzed tissue samples to confirm that the lesula -- short for its Latin name, Cercopithecus lomamiensis -- is in fact genetically distinct from other species.

The researchers found that the monkeys live in the central part of the country and have a range of about 6,500 square miles. The lesula lives in remote regions that are largely unthreatened by human settlement. But John Hart warned, "Under the current trends of uncontrolled bush-meat hunting, it could become very endangered."

NEW YORK TIMES

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