About 11 million years ago, a group of monkeys settled on the island of Jamaica, in the Caribbean. With no natural predators in sight, the monkeys could simply kick back and enjoy a laid-back Caribbean life. Their spring-free lifestyle made it possible for these monkeys to enjoy themselves – they led a peaceful existence on the island until a few hundred years ago when they were suddenly eradicated – but also left a striking mark on their appearance.
Known as Xenothrix mcgregori, these Caribbean primates continued to develop into a particular species that should resemble all the other monkey species living today. Actually, Xenothrix mcgregori looked like a sloth than a real monkey, notes New Scientist.
First description 1952, Xenothrix mcgregori had relatively few teeth and unusual legs that resembled those of a rodent than the leg that were intended for "monkey-like" locomotives, for example, jump from branch to branch and walk through tree slabs.
"It was really a weird animal," said Prof Samuel Turvey from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to BBC. "Possibly, with a bone like a rodent, the body may be like a slow loris. Because it's so weird, no one could agree on what it was related to."
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The remains of the now extinct Caribbean monkey – originally discovered in a Jamaican cave in 1920 – revealed that this bizarre species grew to adapt to a slow life in the tree coup.
"What they suggest is a much slower, perhaps even, lively lifestyle that may not be unexpected in an animal living on an island with few predators than big birds," said Ross MacPhee from the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York.
To calculate the story of this confusing tree dwelling, AMNH researchers collaborated with researchers from the ZSL and Natural History Museum in London, UK, and investigated Xenothrix fossil. The team successfully extracted the old DNA of this mysterious extinct monkey and finally reported where it came from, reports Science Daily.
Their study, published yesterday in the newspaper Negotiations by the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that the strange Jamaican monkey had roots in South America and was actually closely related to the titi monkey (Callicebinae) – A small tree-lingering monkey still living in Amazon's tropical forests.
Titi monkeys come in several varieties – they have long soft coat that can be red, black or gray – and do not have an embroidery tail. These monkeys are fed to fruit and can live for up to 12 years in nature, with the male men of the species who often care about the young ones.
The team believes that Xenothrix mcgregori used to be a titiapa that came to Jamaica probably on floating vegetation and went through a remarkable evolutionary change after colonizing its new environment.
"Ancient DNA indicates that the Jamaican monkey is really a titiapa with some unusual morphological characteristics, not a completely distinctive branch of the New World monkey," said MacPhee, a researcher at AMNH's mammalogical department. "Evolution can work unexpectedly in environments that produce miniature elephants, giant birds and sloppy primates. Such examples put a very different spin on the old cliché as" anatomy is destiny. ""
Since no living descendants of Xenothrix mcgregori Survive to this day, we can only wonder how this species looked when it still lived. Some researchers suggest that the Caribbean primate could have looked like a kinkajou (Potos flavus) or a night apiary (Aotus azarae).
This monkey appeared 900 years ago, probably because of hunting and food loss. Invasive mammals taken to the island by Jamaica's early settlers may also have been subjected Xenothrix mcgregori, possibly contributing to the nature of the species.
"What we think but can not show is that Xenothrix, like hundreds of other species, were exposed to direct or indirect effects of the first people who came there, "said MacPhee.
Prof. Turvey notes that the extinction of this species that lived for millions of years on an island where it had nothing to fear until the arrival of man paints a cruel picture of the fate that occurred to many Caribbean species that are no longer here and are only known from fossil residues.
"The outbreak of" Xenothrix ", developed on an island without any native predators, emphasizes the great vulnerability of the unique biodiversity in human consequences."