Thursday, September 13, 2012

New monkey species discovered; only second such find in 28 years

Scientists in the Democratic Republic of Congo claim they have discovered a new species of monkey, making it only the second such discovery in nearly 30 years. The claim is published in the journal Plos One, in which the team of U.S. scientists have named the find Cercopithecus Lomamiensis. The team says the monkey, which locals call the Lesula, has been known among inhabitants of the Congo's Lomami forest basin for years but had never been seen by the outside world until now. "We never expected to find a new species there," said the project's lead scientist, John Hart. "But the Lomami basin is a very large block that has had very little exploration by biologists." The Lesula has large yellow eyes, a long narrow nose and a pink-colored face under its golden fur. It is reportedly very shy, requiring Hart's team to set up remote monitoring devices to detect the animals in their natural habitat. Interestingly, the team first made its apparent discovery when scientists came across an unidentified monkey tethered to a post and belonging to the daughter of a local schoolteacher. "Right away I saw that this was something different," Hart said. "It looked a bit like a monkey from much further east, but the coloring was so different and the range was so different." For three years, Hart worked with geneticists and anthropologists as he labored to determine whether the monkey actually belonged to a previously unclassified species. "I knew it was important to have a collaborative team of experts," he said. Eventually an ancient, common genetic ancestry was linked between the Lesula and the Owl Face monkey. Scientists at New York University and Florida Atlantic University say they believe the species' split may have occurred after a series of rivers broke apart the animal's natural habitat. Hart is working with Congolese authorities to establish a national park in the basin that will help protect the Lesula and other animals that reside there. "The challenge now is to make the Lesula an iconic species that carries the message for conservation of all of DR Congo's endangered fauna," Hart said. By Eric Pfeiffer, Yahoo! News

Dog stands guard over deceased owner’s grave for six years

An extremely dedicated dog has continued to show its loyalty, keeping watch on its owner's grave six years after he passed away. Capitan, a German shepherd, reportedly ran away from home after its owner, Miguel Guzman, died in 2006. A week later, the Guzman family found the dog sitting by his grave in central Argentina. Miguel Guzman adopted Capitan in 2005 as a gift for his teenage son, Damian. And for the past six years, Capitan has continued to stand guard at Miguel's grave. The family says the dog rarely leaves the site. "We searched for him, but he had vanished," widow Veronica Guzman told "We thought he must have got run over and died. 'The following Sunday we went to the cemetery, and Damian recognized his pet. Capitan came up to us, barking and wailing as if he were crying." Adding to the unusual circumstances, Veronica says the family never brought Capitan to the cemetery before he was discovered there. "It is a mystery how he managed to find the place," she said. Cemetery director Hector Baccega says he and his staff have begun feeding and taking care of Capitan. "He turned up here one day, all on his own, and started wandering all around the cemetery until he eventually found the tomb of his master," Baccega said. "During the day he sometimes has a walk around the cemetery, but always rushes back to the grave. And every day, at six o'clock sharp, he lies down on top of the grave, stays there all night." But the Guzman family hasn't abandoned Capitan. Damian says the family has tried to bring Capitan home several times but that he always returns to the cemetery on his own. "I think he's going to be there until he dies, too. He's looking after my dad," he said. By Eric Pfeiffer, Yahoo! News