Monkeys similar to today’s capuchins are said to have crossed at least 100 miles of ocean 21 million years ago to get from South to North America before the continents joined as one. Scientists released this discovery on Wednesday. The proof came in the form of seven tiny teeth found during excavations, one being the expansion of the Panama Canal. This means monkeys found their way to North American a lot earlier than previously recorded.
These teeth came from a recently discovered medium-sized ape known as the Panamacebus transitus. 21 million years ago, South America was a secluded continent that contained its own evolution of various species of mammals. American paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson named this “splendid isolation”. The question is, how did the monkeys accomplish such a trek?
Vertebrate paleontology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History works on the University of Florida campus and says it is most likely they did not swim from one side to the other, but accidentally traveled on pieces of vegetation. As far as anyone knows, this is the only mammal that has ever been known to travel the same distance. South American giant ground sloths did reach North America around 9 million years ago but the Isthmus of Panama didn’t form until 3.5 million years ago which gave animals the ability to make their way between the two huge continents. This was the biggest mixing of species that has ever been recorded.
Monkeys first came from Africa and have spread to various parts of the world since then, and scientists hypothesis these furry guys travelled even longer distances about 37 million years ago when they went from Africa to South America. The floating debris theory is the best fit for this move as well.