By Stephen Messenger
A team of biologists working in central Brazil have discovered what is believed to be a previously undiscovered species of primate living in forests along the southern edge of the Amazon rainforest. The exciting find hints at something researchers have long suspected — that efforts to document biodiversity in the region have only begun to scratch the surface.
According to researchers from the University of Mato Grosso, the possible new type of saki monkey was spotted on three occasions in a fragmented patch of forest that has gone largely unstudied until now. The animals' unique calico coloring has never before been observed in a monkey of this genus, say biologists, though genetic testing will still be necessary to determine that it is in fact distinct.
"We sent the first pictures to an expert, but everything suggests that it is a new species. The characteristics are very different," biologist Manoel dos Santos Filho told Brazilian news outlet G1 Globo.
Although next to nothing is known about this possible new species, it is likely already under threat of extinction. As the researchers note, the region where these monkeys were discovered has been among the hardest hit in the country by rampant deforestation, with just 15 percent of the original forest cover remaining.
Every year, hundreds of new species are documented in and around the Amazon rainforest — though there are likely thousands more being wiped out at the same time. According to some estimates, as many as 0.2 to 0.3 percent of species in the Amazon go extinct yearly.