The Caribbean is a region full of primates and, most interesting, it housed a mysterious extinct monkey, the Xenothrix. Now, an ancient DNA study revealed more details about the evolution of the Xenothrix primate which presented bizarre body characteristics entirely different from any modern monkey’s body.
The new study, issued in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, was carried out by a team of experts from international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London), London’s Natural History Museum (NHM), and the American Museum of Natural History in New York, as reported by Lab Manager news portal.
Different from any other monkey on Earth, Xenothrix was a slow-moving tree-dweller with few teeth and rodent-like leg bones. Its peculiar characteristics made it a challenging job for researchers to reveal this mysterious extinct monkey’s evolution. Also, it was a hell of a job for scientists to find out with which modern-day monkey Xenothrix relates.
Ancient DNA Study Revealed The Evolution of a Mysterious Extinct Monkey of The Caribbean
“This new understanding of the evolutionary history of Xenothrix shows that evolution can take unexpected paths when animals colonize islands and are exposed to new environments. However, the extinction of Xenothrix, which evolved on an island without any native mammal predators, highlights the great vulnerability of unique island biodiversity in the face of human impacts,” explained Professor Samuel Turvey from ZSL.
“Recovering ancient DNA from the bones of extinct animals has become increasingly commonplace in the last few years. However, it’s still difficult with tropical specimens, where the temperature and humidity destroy DNA very quickly. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to extract DNA from these samples and resolve the complex history of the primates of the Caribbean,” added Professor Ian Barnes, another co-author of the study.
Around 11 million years ago, Xenothrix colonized Jamaica from South America. “Ancient DNA indicates that the Jamaican monkey is really just a titi monkey with some unusual morphological features, not a wholly distinct branch of New World monkey. Evolution can act in unexpected ways in island environments, producing miniature elephants, gigantic birds, and sloth-like primates. Such examples put a very different spin on the old cliché that ‘anatomy is destiny,'” concluded Ross MacPhee of the American Museum of Natural History’s Mammalogy Department.
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