Monkey see, monkey doo-doo.
Primate poop turned out to be the key to new breakthrough research proving that different species of African apes have mated and produced hybrid offspring for centuries — possibly even thousands of years.
Led by Kate Detwiler, an anthropology professor at Florida Atlantic University, the study published in the International Journal of Primatology focused on guenon monkeys in Gombe National Park in Tanzania.
The medium-sized mammals are known for colorful tails as well as striking facial features that serve a purpose. They keep genetically distinct groups from going outside their species and breeding. But not always.
“There’s a lot of promiscuity taking place in Gombe National Park. Red-tails are mating with blues, blues are mating with red-tails, blues are mating with blues, red-tails are mating with red-tails, and hybrids are mating with everyone,” Detwiler said in an FSU release.
The proof that the monkeys have gone wild sexually is based on examining DNA in the excrement of 144 guenon monkeys — red-tailed, blue-tailed and hybrid — from the site. Scientists found evidence of ongoing mating between two genetically distinct groups.
All of the monkeys – hybrids, reds and blues have red-tailed mitochondrial DNA – all traced back to female red-tailed monkeys, according to the researchers.
“We’re just not seeing any negative consequences from these two very different species repeatedly mating and producing offspring on an ongoing basis,” Detwiler said.
“The Gombe hybrid population is extremely valuable because it can be used as a model system to better understand what hybridization looks like and how genetic material moves between species.”