Science News

Classified new African dwarf monkey lived more than 4 million years ago

A new species of small monkey that lived in the regions of today’s Kenya 4.2 million years ago has been described by a group of researchers. The study of the fossil has been published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

The new monkey, named Nanopithecus browni (the name was chosen in honor of a researcher, Francis Brown of the University of Utah), was very small and the adult specimens weighed only 1-1.3 pounds. It was the same size as today’s talapoina monkey, considered the smallest monkey in the Old World, currently represented by two species: Miopithecus talapoin and Miopithecus ogouensis.

Talapoine monkeys are part of a larger group, that of vervet monkeys. The talapoini to date are in central-western Africa, in tropical forests, and are thought to have suffered a shrinkage of the body, during the course of evolution, to respond to increasingly intricate habitats, full of plants, trees and swamps.

The remains of Nanopithecus browni have however been found in Kenya, eastern Africa, in a habitat that was once dry and covered by wide open forest prairies. This means, according to the researchers and authors of the study, that this little monkey has undergone a more complex evolution and in any case different with respect to the Cercopitec.

The nanism of the monkey Nanopithecus browni should have occurred earlier and differently, which suggests that the forms of evolutionary dwarfism in apes must have occurred more than once and in very different habitats, in response to different needs.