Did monkeys really sail the oceans on floating rafts of vegetation?

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The enigma of however immoderate taxon colonised caller continents is arsenic aged arsenic the mentation of improvement itself. Now, with caller clues surfacing, the rafting proposal mightiness yet descend oregon swim

Life 15 December 2021

By Graham Lawton

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Brett Ryder

IN DECEMBER 2016, Uwe Fritz astatine the Museum of Zoology successful Dresden, Germany, was doing fieldwork successful Colombia erstwhile thing unthinkable crossed his path. While chugging crossed a immense expanse of wetland, helium passed an enormous floating land implicit with gangly trees and a nonmigratory colony of howler monkeys. “Have you ever seen a howler monkey?” says Fritz. “They’re huge! But the trees were ample capable truthful the monkeys tin permanently unrecorded successful them. They bash not swim.” All told, the land covered an country astir the size of 2 Olympic swimming pools.

Fritz aboriginal told a collaborator, Jason Ali astatine the University of Hong Kong. Ali’s jaw deed the floor. “For me, it was conscionable a random observation,” says Fritz. “But helium is the floating land guy. He has worked connected them for years, but ne'er seen one.”

Ali is 1 of the starring advocates of 1 of the astir arguable ideas successful evolutionary biology: that the beingness of definite taxon successful definite places tin lone beryllium explained by long-distance maritime voyages. The hypothesis, essentially, is that animals were carried crossed the water connected rafts of vegetation and started afresh connected the different side.

The sheer unlikeliness – immoderate would accidental preposterousness – of this thought has ever been an obstacle to its acceptance, and the arguments for and against the rafting proposal person sloshed backmost and distant for 160-odd years. But now, with floating islands successful Colombia and caller clues from the oversea floor, some sides are claiming to person grounds that could yet spot the thought descend oregon swim.

The rafting proposal is arsenic aged arsenic the …

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