Some DNA has been extracted from bones found in a cave in Jamaica, comfirming a unique strange extinct monkey with rodent-like legs.
Some 11 million years ago, a group of monkeys settled on the island of Jamaica in the Caribbean. With no natural predators in sight, the monkeys were able to simply kick back and enjoy a relaxed Caribbean life. Their care-free lifestyle allowed these monkeys to thrive — they led a peaceful existence on the island up until a few hundred years ago when they suddenly went extinct — but also left a striking mark on their appearance. …
“It was a really weird animal indeed,” Prof. Samuel Turvey from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) told the BBC. “Possibly with legs like a rodent; body maybe like a slow loris. Because it’s so weird no-one’s been able to agree what it was related to.”
… The team believes that Xenothrix mcgregori used to be a titi monkey that got to Jamaica probably on floating vegetation and went through a remarkable evolutionary change after colonizing its new environment.
“Ancient DNA indicates that the Jamaican monkey is really just a titi monkey with some unusual morphological features, not a wholly distinct branch of New World monkey,” said MacPhee, who is a scientist at the AMNH’s Mammalogy Department. “Evolution can act in unexpected ways in island environments, producing miniature elephants, gigantic birds, and sloth-like primates. Such examples put a very different spin on the old cliché that ‘anatomy is destiny.’”
Since no living descendants of Xenothrix mcgregori survive to this day, we can only speculate on what this species looked like when it was still alive.
Xenothrix, unlike any other monkey in the world, was a slow-moving tree-dweller with relatively few teeth, and leg bones somewhat like a rodent’s. Its unusual appearance has made it difficult for scientists to work out what it was related to and how it evolved. However, the scientific team have successfully extracted the first ever ancient DNA from an extinct Caribbean primate — uncovered from bones excavated in a Jamaican cave and providing important new evolutionary insights.
Using various indicators, MacPhee and Fleagle (1991) reconstructed the body weight of Xenothrixas lying between 2 and 4 kg (similar to size range found in the extant capuchin monkey, Cebus apella).
As to what at the creature might have looked like, this is the closest I could find:
During the 1860s, a strange creature referred to in the publicity literature as “a poto from the mountains of Jamaica” was exhibited in London. However, the accompanying engraving of this animal depicts a creature wholly unlike any species known to exist in Jamaica today. Consequently, some researchers have speculated that it may have been a living specimen of X. mcgregori.
If you don’t want to call someone “a slow, few toothed, rat-legged tree monkey,” just call them a Xenothrix.