Genetic Differences Among Monkeys in Tanzania Show Troubling Pattern

An endangered monkey species in Tanzania is living in geographical pockets that are becoming isolated from one another. The situation, researchers say, is mostly driven by the monkeys’ proximity to villages and the deliberate burning of forests to make way for crops and pastures. An international team, led by Maria Jose Ruiz-Lopez, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oregon, combed five distinct forested areas from 2011 to 2012. Gathered were 170 fecal samples of the Udzungwa red colobus monkey (Procolobus gordonorum), for DNA analyses. These  are considered an indicator species of ecological change. “We found that human activities are driving genetic differentiation in these monkeys across this landscape,” Ting said. “This ecosystem is an important one for conservation in general because of the high level of diversity in it. This research is showing that this ecosystem is in a precarious state. This monkey is a forest-adapted species that lives in the trees. We really thought that the best explanation for what is driving genetic differentiation would be forest coverage.”

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