A Rediscovery, a New Species (1 Viewer)

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Much of the Brazilian Amazon remains accessible only by small boats, including the Rio Negro basin. Here, researchers conducting a long-term mammalian parasite study have rediscovered a forgotten bearded saki primate: Chiropotes israelita.1 Small, dark, and shy, Chiropotes lives high in trees. Its elusive nature and remote habitat contributed to the poor understanding of its taxonomy, says Shawn Lehman, anthropology department, University of Toronto. Now, researchers have learned that C. israelita is its own species.

J.B. von Spix coined the name for C. israelita in 1823. "Later, however, other researchers [such as] Hershkovitz in 1985 [thought] that this species named israelita was actually the same species as C.s. chiropotes [C. satanas]," says Cibele Bonvicino, of the National Institute of Cancer in Rio de Janeiro and the paper's lead author. But, von Spix's detailed description convinced researchers that this animal, with its olive-brown dorsum, is C. israelita.

By analyzing the animals' geographic distribution, visible features, chromosome arrangements, and DNA sequences, the Brazilian scientists documented that C. israelita differs from other known species, including C.s. chiropotes. Most of the historic species designations have come from comparing skins and skulls, says Lehman. "By doing these kinds of [extensive] studies, the findings tend to be given more weight."

Also, in the same paper and using similar analyses, Bonvicino and colleagues elevated two subspecies of Chiropotes to species level.

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