Navigation Links
Extinct relative helps to reclassify the world's remaining 2 species of monk seal
Date:5/14/2014

The recently extinct Caribbean monk seal (Monachus tropicalis) was one of three species of monk seal in the world. Its relationship to the Mediterranean and Hawaiian monk seals, both living but endangered, has never been fully understood. Through DNA analysis and skull comparisons, however, Smithsonian scientists and colleagues have now clarified the Caribbean species' place on the seal family tree and created a completely new genus. The team's findings are published in the scientific journal ZooKeys.

First reported by Columbus in 1494, the Caribbean monk seal ranged throughout the Caribbean with an estimated population in the hundreds of thousands. Unrestricted hunting in the 19th century, however, caused a rapid decline in numbers. The last definite sighting of a Caribbean monk seal was in 1952, making it the most recent extinction of a marine mammal in the Western Hemisphere.

To find the answers about the classification of the Caribbean monk seal, the scientists turned to DNA extracted from century-old monk seal skins in the Smithsonian's collections. For the DNA comparisons, the Smithsonian team worked with scientists at the Leibniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany and Fordham University in New York. Their analyses showed that the Caribbean species was more closely related to the Hawaiian rather than the Mediterranean monk seal. It also showed that Caribbean and Hawaiian monk seals split into distinct species around 3 to 4 million years ago―the same time the Panamanian Isthmus closed off the connection between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, which would have naturally separated the two.

"Scientists have long understood that monk seals are very special animals," said Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. "This study is exciting because it gives us a clearer view of their evolution and provides us with new context that highlights the importance of conserving these remarkable and endangered seals."

The team's analysis determined that the molecular and morphological differences between the Mediterranean species and the two New World species (Caribbean and Hawaiian) were profound. This led them to classify the Caribbean and Hawaiian monk seals in a newly named genus, Neomonachus. This remarkable discovery is the first time in more than 140 years that a new genus has been recognized amongst modern pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walruses).

"We occasionally identify new species of larger mammals, like the olinguito we announced last year," said Graham Slater, co-author and Peter Buck Post Doctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian. "But to be able to name a new genus, and a seal genus at that, is incredibly rare and a great honor."

Monk seals, as a group, are unusual among seals in being adapted for life in warm water. With the Caribbean species now extinct, the Hawaiian monk seal is the last surviving species of the genus Neomonachus, as the Mediterranean species is in its genus, Monachus. Both species are listed as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. With about 1,200 Hawaiian but less than 600 Mediterranean monk seals left, they are some of the rarest mammals on Earth.


'/>"/>

Contact: John Gibbons
gibbonsjp@si.edu
202-633-5187
Pensoft Publishers
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Pollen can protect mahogany from extinction
2. Global effort launched to save turtles from extinction
3. First mass extinction linked to marine anoxia
4. University of Toronto biologists predict extinction for organisms with poor quality genes
5. 24 new species of lizards discovered on Caribbean islands are close to extinction
6. UGA study finds theres not always safety in numbers when it comes to extinction risk
7. One-quarter of grouper species being fished to extinction
8. 10 million years to recover from mass extinction
9. Woolly mammoth extinction has lessons for modern climate change
10. Top predators key to extinctions as planet warms
11. North American freshwater fishes race to extinction
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Extinct relative helps to reclassify the world's remaining 2 species of monk seal
(Date:4/6/2017)... , April 6, 2017 ... RFID, ANPR, Document Readers, by End-Use (Transportation & Logistics, ... Facility, Oil, Gas & Fossil Generation Facility, Nuclear Power), ... Educational, Other) Are you looking for a ... sector? ...
(Date:4/3/2017)... , April 3, 2017  Data ... precision engineering platform, detected a statistically significant ... product prior to treatment and objective response ... the potential to predict whether cancer patients ... to treatment, as well as to improve ...
(Date:3/28/2017)... , March 28, 2017 The ... Hardware (Camera, Monitors, Servers, Storage Devices), Software (Video Analytics, ... Region - Global Forecast to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, ... 2016 and is projected to reach USD 75.64 Billion ... and 2022. The base year considered for the study ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... At its national board meeting in North Carolina, ... Harvard University’s Departments of Physics and Astronomy, has been selected for membership in ... team for the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental physics for the discovery of the ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... ... medical journal, Epilepsia, Brain Sentinel’s SPEAC® System which uses the surface electromyography ... generalized tonic-clonic seizures (GTCS) using surface electromyography (sEMG). The prospective multicenter phase ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... Seattle, WA (PRWEB) , ... ... ... the industry leader in Hi-C-based genomic technologies, launched its ProxiMeta™ Hi-C metagenome ... the ProxiMeta Hi-C kit and accompanying cloud-based bioinformatics software to perform Hi-C ...
(Date:10/6/2017)... Mass. (PRWEB) , ... October 06, 2017 , ... ... female entrepreneurship within the healthcare and technology sector at their fourth annual Conference ... panels featuring 30 inspiring speakers and the ELEVATE pitch competition showcasing early stage ...
Breaking Biology Technology: