In one of the Amazon regions most affected by deforestation, Brazilian researchers have identified a new species of monkey, which spent a few decades being confused with some of its relatives before being finally revealed to the scientific community.
This is the schneider marmoset (Mico schneideri), whose elegant coat, silver on the front, with shades of orange and lead, helps to differentiate it from the various other members of the tamarin genus that inhabit neighboring areas of the forest.
Everything indicates that the species is exclusively from Mato Grosso, being found only in the region between the Juruena and Teles Pires rivers, in municipalities such as Paranaíta and Alta Floresta.
Details about the discovery are in an article in the journal Scientific Reports. Signing the study is 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 the United Kingdom.
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 because there is still a lack of data on the geographic distribution and characteristics of each animal.
This is what led the study team to suspect that some animals stored at the Goeldi Museum, attributed to another species of marmoset, the Mico emiliae, had not been correctly classified.
“The three previous works that examined these specimens only used the coat color for study, and that with few specimens. Small sampling is always a problem [para a confiabilidade de um estudo], and the coat color of the marmosets of the new species seems to ‘fade’ with time,” Costa-Araújo explained to Folha. “Actually, the animals are quite different when we observe specimens recently collected in the wild.”
In fact, that’s what made the difference for the new research, he says: further field trips to find more marmosets, along with DNA analysis of the different species of the Mico genus and the precise mapping of each animal’s geographic distribution.
The confluence of all this information is what allowed us to hit the hammer and affirm that the Mato Grosso monkey is in fact a new species. The animal’s scientific and popular name pays homage to the Brazilian primatologist and geneticist Horácio Schneider (1948-2018).
Another important indication is the apparently exclusive occurrence of the animal in the so-called interfluvium (region between rivers) Juruena-Teles Pires. Costa-Araújo explains that the geographic distribution of the different species of the tamarin genus tends to coincide with that of the various Amazonian interfluves.
It can be imagined, in these cases, that the formation of the current course of rivers would have separated ancestral populations of primates, isolating them in such a way that, with the passage of many thousands of years, they became different species. “But we cannot say that. I’m looking for the answer to this question in my postdoctoral research”, he says.
Little is known about the behavior and eating habits of most Amazonian marmosets, although group members tend to adopt a varied menu that includes sap from trees, fruits and small animals. More studies are also needed to understand how the striking differences in coat between the species arose, says Costa-Araújo.