Brazilian scientists say they have discovered a new monkey species overlooked in the receding rain forest of the country's northeast coast, although other experts believe the primate may have been documented before.
Antonio Rossano Mendes Pontes, a professor of Zoology at the Federal University in Pernambuco, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that the discovery of the monkey, dubbed Cebus queirozi, showed how little is known about Brazil's flora and fauna even in developed areas.
He spotted the monkey near the Pernambuco state capital of Recife, about 1,200 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro.
"As soon as I saw the monkey with its golden-yellow hair and the white tiara on its head, I knew it was a new species," Pontes said.
A scientific description of Cebus queirozi, which has longish golden-yellow fur and a snow-white cap on the front half of its head, was published in the international scientific journal Zootaxa earlier this month.
A male adult weighs about 6.4 pounds and measures 32 inches from head to tail, according to the description.
But some primatologists questioned whether the species was in fact new to science.
Some suspect Pontes merely rediscovered a monkey called Simia flavia, named and depicted in a drawing by German taxonomist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in the 18th Century but never seen since.
Mario de Vivo, a primatologist at the University of Sao Paulo not involved in the new finding, said the monkeys look almost exactly alike.
"But we don't know, because Pontes didn't keep a specimen of the monkey," he said.
Scientific descriptions usually require that scientists kill a specimen and deposit it in a museum for future examination, though there are exceptions.
Pontes said he captured, examined and photographed one of the monkeys but returned it to the wild because of the small number of individuals surviving in nature.