There's a new monkey in town - it's from the Congo and it's called the lesula. Known for its humanlike face and bright blue butt, the lesula monkey was found completely on accident by a research group led by John and Terese Hart in 2012. Upon seeing a captive monkey in a remote village, they realized that it was unlike any of the monkeys they'd seen before.
Through extensive genetic testing and ground research, the Harts were able to prove that the lesula was a new, distinct species and had eluded humans until then - other than the locals, of course, who ate the lesula and knew it well.
This human-faced monkey, along with many other primates, are all in danger as forest logging and the bushmeat industry continue to destroy their habitats. Researchers like the Harts have dedicated themselves to developing national forests and protecting these precious species, like the all-too-familiar lesula.
It Took Three Years To Confirm The Lesula As A New Species
Discovering a new species isn't as easy as snapping a pic and calling it a day. It took researchers three years to prove that they had indeed discovered something entirely new. The process involved setting up cameras and recorders in the forest to observe the lesula (they're shy little guys) and figure out what sounds it made. The researchers also gathered samples of skin from a dead lesula for further study.
From that skin's genetic samples scientists were able to pinpoint the time when the lesula diverged from another species. It was probably because a river developed and separated them - meaning the lesula has been around for a few million years.
It's One Of The Few New Species Recently Discovered
When it was discovered in 2012, the lesula was the first new recorded species of monkey in 28 years. Since then, a new orangutan has also been discovered. Whereas the lesula is fairly populous, there are only about 800 of the orangutan.
Scientists have also discovered a new rat - and it's the rat of your nightmares, measuring at 18 inches long. We'll stick with the lesula, thank you very much. (You can check out the massive rat here.)
There's A Reason Why The Lesula Eluded Researchers For So Long
The lesula was found in an area of the Congo that scientists hadn't delved into, called the Lomani forest basin. This area is composed of about 6,500 square miles between two river systems, the Lomani and Tshuapa. Comparatively, that's about the same size as Hawaii and bigger than the Bahamas.
Though the vast majority of the world had no idea the lesula was roaming the forest, it was common to the locals as it is used as a food source. Who knows what else the Lomani basin may hold?
There Are Potentially Millions Of Undiscovered Species
If it seems crazy that we are still discovering new species in this day and age, it shouldn't. There are likely millions more out there. While some new species are found through fossils, there are plenty of others still living somewhere in the world. Oftentimes, it's because there are still unexplored areas of the world - much like where the lesula was discovered in the Congo.