It’s hard to believe in 2015 that there are parts of the world yet to be explored, but a new species of monkey discovered in Peru demonstrates just how much of planet earth we still haven’t seen. This discovery sheds light on not only what exists untouched in the most remote parts of the World, but also what we may lose without ever knowing thanks to human development. This entire species and others like it have the potential to disappear forever without ever being discovered if conservation efforts are not enhanced.
WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE TITI MONKEY?
This is a very special little primate, because it has eluded taxonomy for all of its existence as a species. The titi Monkeys have been described as far back as 1914 as a potential new species, but were never actually considered a new species until now. Due to the similarities between species of monkeys it has always been difficult to separate what is a seemingly homogeneous population of primates, relying on photographs taken over the years by travelers, and countless expeditions in the forest in search of the monkeys. Jan Vermeer, the project’s chief researcher, was finally able to identify this new species of Titi Monkey. The photographs provided by tourists proved to be a critical part of the research effort according to Vermeer, “For this study we received help from people all over the world who provided their photographs for comparison.”
HOW DID RESEARCHERS STUMBLE UPON THIS NEW SPECIES?
At first it seemed as though they might discover this new species by sheer coincidence. A rare stuffed monkey stowed away in the American Natural History Museum in New York City can be cited as one of the initial causes for the expedition to begin. A researcher found the preserved specimen to be unique and believed that it could offer insight into the taxonomy of a new species of primate. It turns out that he was correct in his initial assumptions, because his intuition led to the discovery of this new species of titi monkey. Vermeer suggests that studying specimens such as the one found in the American Natural History Museum could be the key to discovering additional species still unidentified, “Titi monkeys are often difficult to identify in the forest, especially the darker species, and more museum specimens would help us with understanding the diversity of this genus.”
NOW THAT THEY ARE FOUND, WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE TITI MONKEYS?
Vermeer wants to continue exploring this part of Peru, and believes that the area is rich in discoveries which have yet to be made. Although there is still a lot of work to be done, new methods of research, e.g., the ability to instantaneously share photos, will lead to the discovery of more fascinating species in the future. All these things may someday improve conservation of efforts for those species as of yet unidentified.