By Marlowe Hood, AFP
PARIS — For nearly a century the carcass of a small, reddish-brown monkey from South America gathered dust in a windowless backroom of the American Natural History Museum in New York City. Like a morgue corpse in a drawer with the wrong toe tag, it was a victim of mistaken identity. No one realized during all those years that it was, in fact, a specimen of an unknown species. That taxonomical injustice will be rectified at the end of this month when the newly minted Latin name of the overlooked monkey — rediscovered in 2013 during a jungle expedition through central Peru mounted by a Dutch primatologist — is officially published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. To wit, Primate Conservation, a reference in the field. Then and only then, according to the rules of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, will Callicebus urubambensis, named for the river along which it lives, finally exist in the annals of biology. The discovery of new primates, especially monkeys, is a pretty big deal. Excluding prosimians (those tiny tree huggers with freakily human-like fingers and saucers for eyes), only 21 new species have been identified since 2000, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), whose Primate Specialist Group is the ultimate authority on these questions.
“Several of those are titis,” said Jan Vermeer, a member of that group and the man whose five-year quest brought C. urubambensis out from the forest canopy shadows. Mate for Life