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New, azure-buttocked monkey species discovered in Congo

A surprising discovery in a remote village in the Democratic Republic of Congo adds a new species to the monkey roster.

Image

An adult male lesula, a newly-identified monkey species native to a limited area of central Democratic Republic of Congo.

M. Emetshu. PLOS One, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044271.g007.

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A shy, brightly colored monkey species has been found living in the lush rainforests at the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a find that utterly surprised the researchers who came upon it.

"When I first saw it, I immediately knew it was something new and different — I just didn't know how significant it was," said John Hart, a veteran Congo researcher who is scientific director for the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation, based in Kinshasa.

In fact, the find was something of a happy accident. Hart first spied the suspect monkey in 2007 while sifting through photographs brought back from a recently concluded field expedition to a remote region of central DRC.

Yet the image that caught his eye hadn't been taken in the field. It was snapped in a village, and showed a young girl named Georgette with a tiny monkey that had taken a shine to the 13-year-old. [See Georgette and the monkey.]

What is that?

It was a gorgeous animal, Hart said, with a blond mane and upper chest, and a bright red patch on the lower back. "I'd never seen that on any animal in the area, so right away I said, 'Hmmm,'" he told OurAmazingPlanet.

Hart decided to get to the bottom of the mystery. Fast forward through five years of field work, genetic research and anatomical study, and today (Sept. 12) Hart and a list of collaborators formally introduced to the world a new primate species, dubbed Cercopithecus lomamiensis, and known locally as the lesula. Their work is announced in the online journal PLOS One.

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