The fossils of the monkey were found in an underwater cave in the Caribbean.
Monkey fossils found in the Caribbean have been dated. A team of international scientists dated the fossils at about a million years old. The fossils were found in an underwater cave in Altagracia Province, Dominican Republic.
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The fossils belonged to the species of extinct monkey Antillothrix bernensis. At first the tibia (shin bone) was found embedded in a limestone rock. The rocks have been dated using the Uranium-series technique.
The paper marking the discovery was published this week. The paper was published in the the Journal of Human Evolution. In the research at first the 3D geometric morphometrics was used to confirm the tibia belongs to Antillothrix bernensis.
The research was carried out in the state of the art Isotope Chronology Laboratory in the School of Earth Sciences. The levels of uranium, thorium and lead present in the limestone rocks were measured. The results were used to measure the age at 1.3+-0.11 million years.
The species of the primate used to exist on Hispaniola relatively unchanged for over a million years. The fossil monkey is roughly the size of a cat and was a tree-dwelling primate.
The research was led by Dr Helen Green of Melbourne University's School of Earth Sciences. According to Dr. Green establishing the age of the fossils changes the understanding of primate evolution in the region. The presence of endemic new world monkeys on the Caribbean islands is one the great questions of bio-geography.
'The presence of endemic new world monkeys on the Caribbean islands is one the great questions of bio-geography and our work on these fossils shows Antillothrix existed on Hispaniola relatively morphologically unchanged for over a million years. By establishing the age of these fossils we have changed the understanding of primate evolution in this region.' said Dr Green.
Co-workers Prof. Alfred Rosenberger and Dr Siobhán Cooke has been working site since 2009. They have been searching for rare fossil remains of endemic mammals. The discovery will allow them to investigate how the animals adapted to the island environments.
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'Very little was known about the native monkey from this island' said Dr Cooke, 'Prior to our discoveries in Altagracia we knew almost nothing even though this species was first described by Renato Rímoli back in 1977'.