First North American monkey fossils found in Panama Canal excavation
|This is a pen and ink drawing of Cebus capucinus by Martin Moynihan, |
former director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama
[Credit: Martin Moynihan, STRI]
During the salvage project, researchers rushed in behind engineers as they dynamited the steep canal banks. The researchers collected exposed fossils and described each location before heavy rains and fast-growing vegetation obscured evidence of the dramatic tectonic events that lifted the land bridge out of the sea to connect North and South America.
|This fossilized upper molar came from the newly identified |
monkey species P. transitus [Credit: Aldo Rincon]
"We suggest that Panamacebus was related to the capuchin (also known as "organ-grinder" monkeys) and squirrel monkeys that are found in Central and South America today," said Jonathan Bloch, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus and lead author on the study. "Prior to this discovery, New World monkeys were thought to have evolved in isolation on South America, cut-off from North America by a wide seaway."
|Cebus capucinus [Credit: Sean Mattson, STRI]|
Source: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute [April 20, 2016]