Origin Of Monkeys Living Near An Urban Airport For Decades Confirmed

The non-native vervet monkey (Chlorocebus sabaeus) population living in this urban coastal region is well known and beloved among local residents and city officials; however, it is relatively unknown to primatologists. Despite wide public interest, there has been only one scientific study (early 1990s), suggesting that the monkeys escaped from a failed roadside zoo in the 1950s and 1970s.

Until now, no one was quite sure where they came from.

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University say they have traced the colony’s origins to the Dania Chimpanzee Farm.

Results of the study, published in the journal Primates , provide critical baseline information to the scientific community about a little-known population of Chlorocebus monkeys that have survived for decades in a novel environment.

Through interviews, historical archives and popular media, FAU scientists traced the monkeys to an escape from the Dania Chimpanzee Farm in 1948. The facility acted as a zoo and also provided primates imported from Africa as research subjects in the development of the polio ᴠᴀᴄᴄɪɴe and other medical research. Historical archives suggest that the monkeys were caught in Sierra Leone. Scientists tested the hypothesis of West African origins using three ɢᴇɴᴇᴛɪᴄ markers: one mitochondrial DNA gene (cytochrome b) and two fragments from the Y-chromosome, the s.ᴇ x-determining gene and the zinc-finger gene. Phyloɢᴇɴᴇᴛɪᴄ analyses confirmed that the Dania Beach monkeys are in fact Chlorocebus sabaeus (green monkey) and have West African origins.

This species is commonly referred to as a green monkey because of the color of its fur. Species within Chlorocebus have hair color ranging from greenish-brown to grayish olive with black faces, hands and feet. Males have a blue sᴄʀᴏᴛᴜᴍ and red ᴘᴇɴɪs and perianus surrounded by white hair.

Green monkeys are endemic to West Africa, with a range from Senegal and west Guinea-Bissau into Ghana. They are the most widespread of the African monkeys and are habitat generalists, limited only by the availability of water and sleeping trees.

In the southeastern United States, Florida is home to three introduced, free ranging primates: Saimiri sciureus (squirrel monkey), Chlorocebus sabaeus (green monkey), and Macaca mulatta (rhesus macaque). All three primate species were introduced through various zoos, research facilities, private collections, and entertainment businesses.

One thing is certain: Residents of the Dania Beach area where the monkeys live are extremely protective of them.

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