A CNN commenter has pointed out that the huge-eyed, depressed-seeming lesula, a new species of monkey found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, “looks a tad bit like Dustin Hoffman.”
Well, you’d have that sad-sack The Graduate air about you, too, if a field team of scientists found you “tethered to a post” because a girl had kept you as a pet ever since your mother was killed by a hunter in the Lomami forest basin that is your natural habitat. But even the primate’s distinctive features were not proof enough that it was a species apart—the first unclassified monkey discovered in 28 years, as it happens:
To a layman it looks like an open and shut case. But animals are often widely divergent within a species—humans are an obvious example— so [researcher John] Hart and his team needed science to prove their gut feeling.
"I got in touch with geneticists and anthropologists to get their advice. I knew it was important to have a collaborative team of experts," says Hart.
The exhaustive study took three years.
I know that "exhaustive study" means they found some dead lesulas and sent their skulls halfway across the globe to be compared to other monkey skulls, etc., but I can also imagine eager zoologists forcing a lesula to hang out with some owl-faced monkeys for three years and seeing if they got along. Kind of like when you’re a kid, and your parents think you’ll be willing to play with any other kid, regardless of age/gender/weirdness disparity, just because you’re both kids? Yes, this is my view of 21st-century scientific inquiry.
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