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Monkeys with handlebar mustaches are now their own species

You know what they say: a fancy monkey always wears a mustache!

Mustachioed patas monkeys were recently assigned to their own species thanks to new research by primate conservation and taxonomy experts.

Patas monkeys are ground-dwelling monkeys in sub-Saharan Africa, and until recently they were thought to be a single species of the genus Erythrocebus despite that fact that some possess a unique handlebar mustache.

Upon closer inspection of Erythrocebus, it was realized that the handle-barred mustached patas monkeys are their own species, Erythrocebus poliophaeus.  

The research was conducted by Spartaco Gippoliti from the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, who specializes in taxonomy.

Gippoliti based his research on earlier findings from 1862 when it was originally proposed that mustached patas were a separate species, but that was later changed. They were first designated as Erythrocebus poliophaeus by German Zoologist H. G. L Reichenbach.

After analyzing the available taxonomic literature on the patas species, Gippoliti conclusively proved Reichenbach’s original designation of two separate species of patas was correct.

Erythrocebus poliophaeus live in the Blue Nile basin region of western Ethiopia, which is why they are dubbed Blue Nile patas monkeys.

The newly named species is an especially exciting discovery as it could help motivate conservation efforts in the area and spark new interest in the often overlooked species.

“The basic concept of the genus Erythrocebus was unchanged for about 100 years now, and the discovery of a distinct species living in eastern Sudan and western Ethiopia will put in the spotlight a little-known region of Africa, offering opportunities for new conservation projects in the area,” said Gippoliti.

The research was published in the journal Primate Conservation.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

Image Credit: Ludwig Siege

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