The Monkeys Are Turning Yellow

Only one species of monkey is turning yellow, and this could have consequences that, while not directly affecting the health of these primates, do have effects in ecological terms.
the monkeys are turning yellow

Can you imagine what it would be like if the dark people in a neighborhood were turning blonde? Something like that is happening in Costa Rica, where the monkeys are turning yellow.

The howler monkey, a unique animal

It is the howler monkey, more specifically the mantle howler species. This animal lives across much of Central and South America, and is known to have large hyoids that allow it to make the most shrill sound of all primates.

It looks like monkeys are turning yellow in Costa Rica, at least those of this species. The appearance of yellow spots on the coat of these animals began in 2013, and this is the first evidence of pigmentation changes in primates.

These spots contrast with the dark fur of this species’ mangrove howler monkeys, so the fact that these monkeys are turning yellow didn’t go unnoticed.

That’s why a group of researchers, including Ismael Galván and Gustavo Gutiérrez, published an article studying this process.

The howler monkey, a unique animal

A study to analyze the issue

In this work, samples of animal hair were collected and the changes that occurred in pigmentation were observed from the chemical point of view: the eumelanin of these animals was being reduced in favor of the pheomelanin.

This change has not been seen in primates and is believed to be caused by pesticides used in the crops surrounding these animals’ habitat, which contain a large amount of sulfur.

monkey with her cub

Why are monkeys turning yellow?

It could be that the monkeys are turning blond as they consume leaves from human crops, especially pineapples, palm oil and bananas. The authors will study this possibility in future studies, by comparing animals from different regions.

Sulfur is a compound that is used both in intensive systems and in organic agriculture, and although its levels are not threatening to human health, it appears that sulfur from the leaves of these plants is affecting non-human primates as these apes are turning yellow.

Although this change does not seem to affect the health of the Mangrove Howlers, the truth is that this is not certain. Furthermore, this change would affect the ecology of the species, since, although there are almost no predators, the changes in color would make these animals more sensitive to predation.

This shows us again that while human health is protected from pesticides, they can have hundreds of ecological effects that we don’t know about. Thus, science must continue to investigate the effects of these chemical compounds on nature.

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