Ancient Transatlantic Misadventure

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Around forty million years ago, a rather large group of Old World monkeys were out foraging for mangroves off the coast of Africa. Then, a violent storm came and suddenly dislodged a huge portion of the vegetation, taking them along with it. As a consequence of this, they were dragged out to sea from the mouth of the Niger River, and the small marmoset-like animals were set adrift. So, they quickly lost sight of land, and feelings of desperation set in.

Fortunately for those cute little simian rascals, at the time of their departure the Isthmus of Panama had not yet formed, and the climate was much different than it is now. This had a significant impact on the ocean currents then, making them far more favorable to the bewildered migrants, although they had no way of knowing it. However, the Atlantic was still only about two-thirds the width that it is now, so the monkeys didn’t have nearly as far to go to get where they needed to be.

Regardless, as the prehistoric primates drifted along for weeks on end, the isolated group of potential breeding pairs gradually died off more and more. As they battled against dehydration, starvation, and lethal sun exposure, it became increasingly more unlikely that the monkeys would ever make it to land in time for any of them to actually survive. Nonetheless, against all odds, the rafting event finally resulted in a successful oceanic dispersion. The brittle storm-tossed watercraft ultimately washed ashore, after successfully ferrying those soggy pioneers hundreds of miles across the globe.

So, having made it to the lush Amazon Basin all the way form the Gulf of Guinea, the New World monkeys evolved into multiple different forms and spread as far north as the Caribbean and as far south as Patagonia. As a result of their death-defying journey form one continent to another, there are now more than a hundred different primate species native to the Americas, including woolly monkeys, night monkeys, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys and so much more. What a bizarre transatlantic misadventure they must have had.

An Autodidact Polymath

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