Think of a smiling, fluffy sloth. Next, picture a tiny, spunky monkey. Now, think of combining those two into one, ultra-precious new animal. This adorable amalgamation actually existed! The xenothrix mcgregori swung from the branches of Jamaican trees about 900 years ago, before humankind ran them off.
Recently, researchers wanted to find out where these charming primates originated from. After some DNA comparisons, compelling genetic information emerged. Clearly, Jamaica’s relaxed atmosphere has the same effect on monkeys as it does on tourists.
The Chillest Monkey
The x. mcgregori spent their time sunbathing in the Jamaican sunshine, nibbling on fresh fruits hanging low on the trees. A reconstruction of their fossils showed their gigantic molars, tiny teeth, and sloth-like characteristics. Their bodies were meant for slow-moving, laid-back lifestyles.
In the time of these island primates, it is suspected that this lifestyle was possible due to having zero predators to worry about. These cuties could slump around as leisurely as they pleased.
Researchers interested in the now-extinct crew decided to check out primate groups that were native to South America in the years leading up to the evolution of the Jamaican sloth-monkeys. Surprisingly, like the popular DNA at-home tests, they found a match! Well, they found an extremely similar match.
The evolutionarily older monkeys that are the possible cousins of the x. mcgregori are drastically opposite in personality. But even more interesting, they’re still around to this day.
South American Cousins
As published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on November 12th of this year, the closest group of relatives are a primate group called titi monkeys.
Despite the funny name, they are tiny and feisty. Also avid tree-dwellers, they quickly scale the skies and display extremely territorial behaviors. That’s a far cry from the relaxed vibe of the sloth-monkey. We imagine one would lean over to his cousin, paw on a shoulder, pleading, “Just chill, man.”
However, the titi monkey cannot simply “chill”. They have many more predators and competitors for food in the jungles of South America. In fact, most of these aggressors are fellow primate groups, all existing side-by-side.
So, how did these hyper primates make their way to the island of Jamaica when it was never land-locked with South America? Scientists theorize that it was most likely by accident.
Over 11 million years ago, a couple of titi monkeys probably found a piece of driftwood that acted as a flotation device. Before they knew it, they were being whisked into one of the fast-moving South American rivers!
Next thing they knew, they were alone on a relatively uninhabited island. After years of intense colonization, the x. mcgregori quickly filled the trees with adorable monkey babies.
Over time, their bodies changed and shifted to better fit their low-key lifestyles. This created the sloth-like features that meshed with their perky monkey traits. Sadly, the x. mcgregori are just another extinct group that we humans will never be able to witness.