A photo of a titiapa, the closest surviving relatives of Xenothrix, is also called Jamaican monkeys. The Xenothrix has expired, but researchers could extract old DNA from residues in a cave in Jamaica. ( Zoological Society of London )
Researchers from London and New York have successfully extracted DNA samples from a species of monkey eradicated at an excavation site in Jamaica.
The Xenothrix, a slow motion tree-tree, is described as having few teeth and rodent legs. They are unlike other monkeys currently present in the world and that is why researchers have difficulty determining what it was related to and how it developed.
The old DNA of bones excavated in a cave in Jamaica has revealed new insights into the evolutionary history of the creature. The team of international researchers published their results in the newspaper Negotiations by the National Academy of Sciences.
How Xenothrix arrived in Jamaica
Researchers believe that the ancestors of Xenothrix monkeys may have landed in Jamaica from South America 11 million years ago aboard a floating vegetation. They may have floated down from the mouth of major South American rivers before they finally colonize the island.
The big rodents, known as Hutier, still in Caribbean islands to this day, also moved on river banks before they arrived and colonized the area.
Which antique Xenothrix DNA reveals
Due to its appearance, it was a challenge to determine which animals Xenothrix was related to. But with the old DNA extracted from the remains dug up in Jamaica, researchers finally have an answer.
The study showed that titi monkeys, the little tree-dwelling monkeys usually found in South America, are the closest living relatives to Xenothrix. The Titi monkeys are active during the day and are extremely territorial.
"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," explained Rossa MacPhee, co-author of the study. "Evolution can work unexpectedly in environments that produce miniature elephants, giant birds and sloppy primates. Such examples put a completely different spin on the old cliché as" anatomy is destiny. ""
Xenothrix had no natural predators when they arrived at the Caribbean islands, but they probably went out due to loss of habitats and hunting.
The Caribbean islands have some of the most unusual species in the world. It also has the highest degree of mammalian eradication due to food loss and hunting from both humans and animals taken to the islands of early settlers.
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