Scientists with the Wildlife Conservation Society have discovered a new species of primate in the Brazilian Amazon, as reported recently in the International Journal of Primatology. The tiny monkey, first seen in 2007, is a type of saddle-backed tamarin. At only 213 grams (less than 3/4 of a pound) and measuring just nine inches (plus a nearly 13-inch tail), the Mura’s monkey (Saguinus fuscicollis mura) is definitely a very tiny tamarin, if not the tiniest.
The news reports don’t have any photographs, but here’s the artist’s reproduction that’s been circling. The monkey has the distinctive saddle coloring on its back, and is mostly gray and dark brown in color.
New mammal discoveries are rare and always exciting, and WCS researchers seem to be extremely adept at finding them. They’ve discovered several new monkey species in recent years: the Arunachal macaque (India, 2004); Madidi monkey (Bolivia, 2005), Kipunji monkey (Tanzania, 2005), and the uakari monkey(Amazon, 2008).
Unfortunately for the little Mura’s monkeys, their home is threatened by a number of development projects that are in the works, including paving a section of the forest, a gas pipeline, and two hydroelectric dams.
According to the authors, the outlook is pretty dire.
The increase in human populations resulting from the developmental projects and improved infrastructure will result in widespread loss, degradation, and fragmentation of the forests… threatening not only these tamarins but also the entire fauna and flora of the region. Predictions of deforestation in the Amazon over the next decades indicate that Saguinus fuscicollis mura, even with the most optimistic scenarios, will be confined to small forest patches and close to extinction within the next 50 years.
Hopefully new discoveries such as this will bring attention back to the plight of conservation in the Amazon region. With new species still being discovered, clearly the forests hold a number of treasures that we may lose the opportunity to discover.
Fabio Röhe, José de Sousa e Silva, Ricardo Sampaio and Anthony B. Rylands. A New Subspecies of Saguinus fuscicollis (Primates, Callitrichidae). International Journal of Primatology, 2009; DOI: 10.1007/s10764-009-9358-x