Deep in southwestern South America in places like Chile and Argentina, you might be lucky enough to stumble upon a monito del monte which means “little bush monkey.” Though it earned this name, it’s not actually a monkey at all, but a tiny little marsupial that’s about 8–13 cm (3.1–5.1 in) in length. It lives in the thickets of South American mountain bamboo in the Valdivian temperate rain forests of the southern Andes. It’s notable as the only surviving member of an otherwise extinct order dating back more than 40 million years, the Microbiotheria, giving it another nickname of “living fossil.”
The monito del monte is able to grasp the trees it lives in with its tail, but the tail also serves another important purpose. Their tails have the ability to store fat which helps them to hibernate during the winter when food is in short supply. When it comes to mating, they are monogamous and the females carry the young in their pouch until they are mature enough to leave after about 5 months. They are then nursed in a nest and often carried on the mother’s back. The young continue to remain in association with their mother even after weaning.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists this little guy as Near Threatened due to, you guessed it, habitat loss caused by human expansion, including removal of the trees in which they live. Luckily, the monito del monte does occur in some protected areas and research is underway on the island of Chiloé into the species’ ecology and natural history, in hopes to inform future conservation actions. Hang in there little bush monkey, help is on the way!
About the Doodlewash
M. Graham watercolors: Burnt Sienna, Quinacridone Gold, Ultramarine Blue, Permanent Pale Green, Azo Yellow, and Neutral Tint. Sennelier L’Aquarelle: Opera Rose. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon sepia ink and second pen with black ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal