On an underwater adventure in picturesque Hispaniola, a group of scuba divers made a surprising discovery: the 3,000-year-old remains of a primate that has been extinct for at least four centuries. BBC News reports that the fossil is only the second specimen of Antillothrix bernensis ever found.
The remains were spotted in an underwater cave and packed into Tupperware boxes to safely transport them back to shore.
Standing just 12 inches tall, the monkey's skeleton may shed light on the origin of primates in the region. Dr. Alfred Rosenberger of Brooklyn College, who led an examination of the fossil, was surprised by the stoutness of the leg bones and says that the monkey may have behaved like a koala, clinging to the trunks of trees.
"And even though these particular bones might be relatively young, we're pretty sure that the arrival of these animals occurred well over 10 million years ago,” Rosenberger told the BBC.
"That's an exciting part of the story — if you compare the dental remains of our monkey to other fossils that we know of, we see strong similarities with Patagonian fossils that are around 15 million years old."
The bones may also illuminate the history of mammalian species in the Caribbean as a whole, according to Dr. Sam Turvey, a researcher from the Zoological Society of London.
"The Caribbean islands have experienced the world's highest level of mammalian extinction over the past 10,000 years. With this improved knowledge of a recently extinct species, it might be possible to understand what caused it to disappear from Hispaniola."