New Species of Macaque Identified in India

by johnsmith

Scientists from the Zoological Survey of India and the University of Calcutta have discovered a cryptic new species of macaque in the forests of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Sela macaques (Macaca selai). Image credit: Zoological Survey of India.

Sela macaques (Macaca selai). Image credit: Zoological Survey of India.

Macaques are members of Macaca, a geographically widely dispersed and species-rich genus of Old World monkeys in the family Cercopithecidae.

These monkeys are native to Asia and Africa and have the widest distribution of any living non-human primate.

There are over 20 Macaca species ranging from Morocco and Gibraltar in the west to Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Bali, and Sulawesi in the east.

Macaques are characterized by moderately long snouts, high-crowned molar teeth with very low cusps, and long third molars.

They are fruit-eaters, but many consume considerable amounts of seeds, leaves, flowers, and other plant materials, as well as various animal prey.

All macaques live in relatively large, multi-male social groups, with troops of some species containing 50 or more individuals.

The newly-identified species, scientifically named Macaca selai, was discovered during a field study in the state of Arunachal Pradesh in India.

This primate has a pale face and brown coat color, and likely evolved from the Arunachal macaque (Macaca munzala), an endangered and recently discovered species from the same region.

“Macaca selai interestingly exhibits high intra-specific genetic variation and also harbors at least two conservation units,” said Dr. Mukesh Thakur from the Zoological Survey of India and colleagues.

“Our results suggest that the Arunachal macaque evolved into two phylogenetic species about 1.96 million years ago following allopatric speciation by means of Sela mountain pass in Arunachal Pradesh, India,” they added.

“The study also identifies gap areas for undertaking surveys to document the relic and unknown trans-boundary populations of macaques through multinational, multi-lateral cross border collaboration.”

The discovery of Macaca selai is described in a paper published this month in the Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.


Avijit Ghosh et al. The Sela macaque (Macaca selai) is a distinct phylogenetic species that evolved from the Arunachal macaque following allopatric speciation. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, published online May 20, 2022; doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2022.107513

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