Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Lesula: A New Species of Cercopithecus Described In The Democratic Republic of Congo

We have ourselves another new primate species. Yes, one whole new species that no one has seen before. Oh ... the native? They don't count. Just because they know of the existence of this primate species for years doesn't mean that it actually exists. It only exists when said species are described by science. Right? Of course not. I think we need to be careful when we talk about new species, especially media outlet that report these kinda stories. They are not "discovered", they are "described". Science (I'm using this in a broad sense) doesn't get to discover something if it's already known. Anyway ...

Left: Adult male Cercopithecus lomamiensis, Yawende, DRC. Photograph by M. Emetshu. Right: Subadult female Cercopithecus lomamiensis, Opala, DRC. Photograph by J. A. Hart.
Photos from Hart et al. (2012)

Hart et al. (2012) just published a paper in which they described a new monkey species known as the "lesula" to the locals. Their paper "Lesula: A New Species of Cercopithecus Monkey Endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Implications for Conservation of Congo’s Central Basin" is available on PLOS ONE if you are interested in reading it (it's free access).

The lesula or Cercopithecus lomamiensis ranges in the Tshuapa, Lomami and the Lualaba (TL2) area of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They are found in the lowland rain forests of central DRC  C. lomamiensis belongs to the Cercopithecini family and is closely related to the Hamlyn's monkey or owl-faced monkey (Cercopithecus hamlyni). However, C. lomamiensis is genetically distinct from C. hamlyni as well as in morphology and vocalizations. C. lomamiensis has a lighter coat compared to C. hamlyni (see photos below). C. lomamiensis seems to have a light brown face while C. hamlyni a dark face with a white stripe on its nose.

Portraits: Captive adult male Cercopithecus hamlyni (upper left), photo by Noel Rowe, with permission; and captive adult male Cercopithecus lomamiensis (upper right), Yawende, DRC, photo by Maurice Emetshu. Lateral view: Hunter-killed adult male Cercopithecus hamlyni (bottom left), photo by Gilbert Paluku; and eagle-killed subadult female Cercopithecus lomamiensis (bottom right), photo by Gilbert Paluku.
Photos from Hart et al. (2012)
C. lomamiensis are semi terrestrial and subsist on terrestrial herbaceous vegetation (herbivory). And yes, to answer the burning question, both C. lomamiensis and C. hamlyni have blue perineum and scrotum. This is definitely interesting news, if not, an urgent call for conservation efforts in the DRC area. C. lomamiensis is the second new primate species to be described recently in Africa after the kipunji, Rungwecebus kipunji


Anonymous said...

Loma looks like he could tell us some stories. He looks quite jaded with all he's seen.

Raymond Vagell said...

Who is Loma?

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