"This is exciting news because it shows that the 'age of discovery' is by no means over," says William Stanley, a co-author of the study and mammal Collection Manager at The Field Museum, where the world's only specimen of this forest-dwelling monkey "resides" in the museum's vast collections.
"Finding a new genus of the best-studied group of living mammals is a sobering reminder of how much we have to learn about our planet's biodiversity," notes Link Olson, another co-author and Mammals Curator at the University of Alaska Museum.
The new African monkey, Rungwecebus kipunji (rhung-way-CEE-bus key-POON-gee), was first described scientifically last year based only on photographs. At that time, scientists placed the reclusive monkey in the genus Lophocebus, commonly known as mangabeys.
Shortly thereafter, one of these monkeys died in a farmer's trap. As a result, a team of scientists, organized by Tim Davenport of the Wildlife Conservation Society, was able to study the specimen's physical characteristics and analyze tissue samples on a molecular level. Their research has concluded that Kipunji (its common name) belongs to an entirely new genus.
Kipunji have light-to-medium grayish brown fur, with off-white fur on the belly and the end of their long, mainly curled-up tail. They have a "crown" made up of a very broad crest of long, erect hair. Adults make a distinctive, loud, low-pitched honk-bark. An omnivore, Kipunji eat leaves, shoots, flowers, bark, fruit, lichen, moss and invertebrates.
These predominantly arboreal monkeys are endemic to Tanzania and known to live in only two high-altitude locations: the Rungwe-Livingstone forest (16 groups) and Ndundulu Forest Reserve (three groups). They live in social groups of 30-36 adul