Using new data on the geographical distribution and uniquely dark physical appearance of patas monkeys in Ethiopia, Italian primatologist Spartaco Gippoliti has confirmed the existence of a second species of the dapper handlebar-mustached monkey. The study, published in the most recent issue of Primate Conservationfrom the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Primate Specialist Group, is one of several papers in the journal to reveal new discoveries, including a new dwarf lemur in Madagascar, two new tarsiers in Indonesia, and two new subspecies of slender lorises in Sri Lanka, in addition to the Blue Nile patas monkey (Erythrocebus poliophaeus) that was first described in 1862.
“What is particularly interesting here is that this distinctive monkey was first described 150 years ago, but in 1927 it was incorrectly folded into just a single species of patas monkey,” said Anthony Rylands, Global Wildlife Conservation’s primate conservation director, deputy chair of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group and editor of the journal. “Patas monkeys occur west to east across sub-Saharan Africa, and there is notable variation in these remarkable primates. It’s only through this kind of painstaking research that we get a proper handle on their diversity so that we can more effectively protect these species from the threats they face.”
Patas monkeys are among the fastest of ground-dwelling monkeys, able to reach a speed of about 34 miles per hour. The Blue Nile patas is known from the Blue Nile basin in western Ethiopia and neighboring Sudan, and geographically separated from other patas monkeys by Sudan’s Sudd swampy region and the Ethiopian highlands. Their face and nose are black and they lack the characteristic band between the ear and eye found on other patas monkeys. Gippoliti writes that the species, which is threatened by habitat loss, could serve as a flagship for conservation for the biologically rich wildlands in Ethiopia and Sudan.
“Refining the taxonomy of the patas monkey was particularly rewarding for two main reasons,” Gippoliti said. “The basic concept of the genus Erythrocebus was unchanged for about 100 years now, and the discovery of a distinct species living in eastern Sudan and western Ethiopia will put in the spotlight a little-known region of Africa, offering opportunities for new conservation projects in the area.”
Additional new species described in the most recent issue of Primate Conservation:
Groves’ dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus grovesi) in Madagascar: Extensive fieldwork coupled with molecular data from specimens collected in and around two national parks in Madagascar led to the confirmation of this new species. Dwarf lemurs are small, arboreal primates that can store fat in their tail to survive lean periods during the winter. This species is named for the late Colin Groves, a British-Australian biological anthropologist and evolutionary biologist at the Australian National University, Canberra, who was widely regarded at the time of his death in November 2017 as the greatest living primate taxonomist.
Jatna’s tarsier (Tarsius supriatnai) and the Manado spectral tarsier (Tarsius spectrumgurskyae) on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia: Both of these Yoda-look-alike species were confirmed through genetic analysis and the evaluation of spectrograms of their unique duet calls. Biologists will next assess the conservation status of both species, and expect that they will be threatened at some level, as are the other eight Sulawesi tarsiers of this genus. Jatna’s tarsier is named after Jatna Supriatna, a wildlife conservation leader in Indonesia. The Manado species is named after Sharon Gursky of Texas A&M University, who has spent much of her career studying the behavioral ecology of these extraordinary primates.
Photo: An adult male Blue Nile patas monkey at Beijing Zoo. (Photo courtesy of Jonas Livet)