Brooklyn College Associate Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology Alfred L. Rosenberger is part of a team of Argentinean and United States scholars who have identified a new species of monkey that once roamed the forests of South America. The discovery of the monkey species, Killikaike blakei, is the result of painstaking analysis of a small, perfectly preserved monkey skull that was found embedded in volcanic rock by members of an Argentinean ranching family. The results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
This fossil, which is dated to 16.4 million years ago, is a spectacular addition to the scant fossil record of New World monkeys because of its pristine condition, including a well preserved face and intact teeth. The unusually fine condition of the skull, which belonged to a young female of the species, enables scientists to determine the monkey's position within the evolutionary history of South and Central American primates. The new genus and species belongs to a group that includes the modern squirrel and capuchin monkeys, highly social, gregarious, large-brained primates that are uniquely adapted to foraging for insects that are often hidden or embedded in bark. The brain of Killikaike blakei is notable because it is larger than those of contemporary monkeys of comparable size.
The monkey species is named for Killik Aike Norte, the location in Patagonia where the skull was discovered, and in honor of the Blake family, who donated the skull to the Padre Molina Museum in the nearby city of Rio Gallegos.