A new species of old world monkey recorded from Arunachal Pradesh has been named after a strategic mountain pass at 13,700 ft above sea level.
Sela macaque ( Macaca selai), the new-to-science primate was identified and analysed by a team of experts from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and the University of Calcutta. Their study has been published in the latest edition of Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.
Phylogenetics relate to the evolutionary development and diversification of a species or group of organisms.
The phylogenetic analysis revealed that the Sela macaque was geographically separated from the Arunachal macaque ( Macaca munzala) of Tawang district by Sela. This mountain pass acted as a barrier by restricting the migration of individuals of these two species for approximately two million years, the study said.
Sela is situated between Dirang and Tawang towns in western Arunachal Pradesh.
“We found the new macaque species in western and central Arunachal Pradesh while exploring the Arunachal macaque’s wild population for genetic insights. It was found to be genetically different from the other species of monkeys reported from this region,” ZSI’s Mukesh Thakur, one of the authors of the study said.
The other authors are Avijit Ghosh, Sujit K. Singh, Ritam Dutta, Lalit K. Sharma, Kailash Chandra and Dhriti Banerjee.
Major cause for crop loss
The study describes the Sela macaque as genetically closer to the Arunachal macaque. The two have some similar physical characteristics such as heavy-build shape and long dorsal body hair. Both species have troops that either avoid proximity to humans or are used to human presence.
The zoologists identified some distinct morphological traits to differentiate the two species. While the Sela macaque has a pale face and brown coat, the Arunachal macaque has a dark face and dark brown coat.
“According to the villagers, the Sela macaque is a major cause of crop loss in the West Kameng district of the State,” Mr. Thakur said.
The study says the Sela macaque has a tail longer than the Tibetan macaque, Assamese macaque, Arunachal macaque and the white-cheeked macaque but shorter than the bonnet macaque and toque macaque.
Sela macaque belongs to the sinica species-group of Macaca, but it differs from all other members of this group through attributes such as brown collar hair and muzzle, thick brown hair around the neck and the absence of chin whiskers, the study says.