Exciting news! There is a new species of monkey!
“A team of scientists has identified a new species of monkey in central Africa that had been known to the locals simply as lesula, a medium-sized, slender animal that looks similar to an owl-faced monkey that was already known to scientists.
In findings published this week in the scientific journal Plos One, the researchers identified the species as Cercopithecus lomamiensis, which is endemic to the lowland rainforests of central Congo. This is only the second time in the past 28 years that a previously unknown species of monkey has been identified, they said, highlighting the importance of preserving biodiversity in a part of central Africa where forests are threatened by illegal logging.
. . . The new monkey was not quite similar to the clearly owl-faced Cercopithecus hamlyni, but researchers say the two are close relatives. The new findings prove the two monkeys are different species, even though to local hunters they might look similar. A lesula, for example, has “significantly larger incisors, upper and lower second molars.” A male lesula “emits a characteristic low frequency, descending, loud call or boom” that is distinguishable from the vocalizations of the other male, the scientists reported.
I spoke with the monkey by telephone.
“I wouldn’t consider myself to be a new species,” he said, laughing pleasantly. “I’ve been around as long as I can remember.”
I nodded sympathetically, realized he couldn’t see me, and then thoughtfully said “mm” into the phone.
“I mean,” the lesula went on, “I was just trying to keep a low profile. I remember, 28 years ago, the last time someone got a lot of attention for being a new species. Just terrible. Couldn’t leave the forest without dozens of nature paparazzi trying to take photographs of his posterior, excrement and incisors. Hounding him at night. All the attention really got to him, and he developed a non-herbaceous vegetation habit. Just wasn’t the monkey I knew any more.”
The monkey excused himself a moment to go scratch his (in certain vital areas, blue) posterior on a tree.
Then he returned. “All I really want is a simple life with others of my species. It’s a small community. I grew up here. My dad grew up here. It was here that he emitted the distinctive, low-frequency descending call that first drew my mother to him. All I really want out of life is the chance to live here where my ancestors did, and maybe, one day, if I’m lucky, to meet a nice lady lesula that I can woo with a distinctive, low-frequency descending call or boom of my own.” A ruminative silence ensued. “Possibly show her my incisors,” he added. “I’ve been told I have good incisors.”
“Has anyone ever told you that you bear an uncanny resemblance to Henry David Thoreau?” I asked. “Or to this painting of Jesus badly restored by an old woman?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” the monkey said. “But has anyone ever told you that you humans have uncannily lesula-like eyes?”
“Mm,” I said.
“Strange and kind of eerie, if you ask me. Makes you wonder where monkey ends and you lower species begin.” The monkey paused. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go enjoy some terrestrial herbaceous vegetation.”