A recent study indicates a small group of monkeys, of a species now extinct, made the journey across the Atlantic Ocean on a natural raft.
The study, published in the journal Science, was conducted by scientists at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California (USC).
Four fossilized teeth of the African primate were discovered on the riverbank of the Yuruá River in the Peruvian Amazon.
This species, believed to be from the Oligocene epoch that lasted from 33.9 million to 23 million years ago, has been named Ucayalipithecus perdita: Ucayali because of where the teeth were found, pith(ikos) which is the Greek word for monkeys, and perdita which is the Latin word for lost.
The scientists indicate the prehistoric monkey was small, weighing around 350 grams. This most likely helped the group of monkeys survive the 900-mile journey, since the only vegetation they could eat was to be found on the raft.
The raft was possibly land that broke off a coastline during a storm, according to the scientists. The molars can also reveal what the monkeys ate, which in this case was mostly fruit.
Though the Atlantic Ocean was a narrower ocean 30+ million years ago, the journey was still no small feat. Neither was the chance of finding the fossils.
Erik Seiffert, lead author of the study and professor at USC states: “The fact that it’s this remote site in the middle of nowhere, that the chances of finding these pieces is extremely small, to the fact that we’re revealing this very improbable journey that was made by these early monkeys, it’s all quite remarkable.”
Cover photo: Dorien de Vries/smithsonianmag.com
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