Monday, May 23, 2005

Monkey Species Discovered

Two teams of scientists working hundreds of miles apart in Tanzania have independently discovered a new species of monkey -- the first new African monkey to be discovered in 21 years.

Dubbed the highland mangabey, Lophocebus kipunji is about three feet long from head to rump with a three-foot-long tail; weighs about 30 pounds; has long, mostly brown fur; sports a lighter brown, spiky, punklike hairdo; and communicates with a distinctive call that is more of a "honk-bark" than the standard-issue mangabey's "whoop-gobble," the teams report in the May 20 issue of Science magazine.

Mangabeys are a kind of monkey found only in equatorial Africa. Their closest relatives are baboons and mandrills.

The hunt began in January 2003, when researchers with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) heard rumors of a shy and unusual monkey living in Tanzania's southern highlands. No one knew if the stories were true, because local people have a lively oral tradition based in part on mythical animals. But the WCS team spotted one in December of that year near Mount Rungwe.

Unaware of that, a team from the University of Georgia and Conservation International made a similar find the following July in the Udzungwa Mountains to the east.

Only last October, after they had been studying their respective populations for months, did the two groups find out about each other.

The two populations probably have no more than 500 individuals each. Those small numbers, along with heavy pressure from logging, poaching and other environmental insults, suggest to the researchers that the species deserves to be listed as critically endangered.

-- Rick Weiss

East Antarctic Ice Sheet Growth

Scientists have documented that global warming is causing ice sheets and glaciers across the globe to shrink, which in turn is pushing sea levels higher. Now a researcher at the University of Missouri at Columbia has discovered a rare piece of good news: The East Antarctic ice sheet's interior is actually growing.

Curt Davis and his team observed 7.1 million square kilometers of the East Antarctic ice sheet from 1992 to 2003 and determined with the aid of satellites that the ice sheet is gaining about 45 billion metric tons of mass a year. That could slow sea level rise -- about 1.8 millimeters a year -- by 0.12 millimeters annually.

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