NewsWorldMeet the little Patagonian monkey that is a "living...

Meet the little Patagonian monkey that is a “living fossil” from a distant past

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Biologist Roberto Nespolo, from the Austral University of Chile, holds a monito del monte, a marsupial that lives in forests and is native to Patagonia, in South America. (CNN) — The monito del monte, an adorable little mouse-like creature that lives in the forests of Patagonia, quickly climbs trees, skimming a meter of bark per second, to feast on insects and summer fruits. that ripen at the top of the glass.
But it is the monkey’s ability to slow down its bodily functions to survive the region’s harsh winters that has fascinated scientists, such as biologist Roberto Nespolo, a professor who studies animal metabolism at the Universidad Austral de Chile. When the weather turns cold, the googly-eyed little monkey builds a nest of moss in the hollow of a tree, snuggling up with a group of four to eight little monkeys, for the winter. There, the little marsupial enters what Nespolo describes as lethargy or torpor, and its heart rate drops from 200 beats per minute to 2 or 3 beats per minute. In this inactive state, you conserve energy and only breathe every three minutes. His blood stops circulating. “I became interested in the monito because of the amazing ability of this marsupial to reduce its metabolism and save 95% of energy during torpor,” Nespolo explains by email. His work is featured in CNN’s new original series “Patagonia: Life on the Edge of the World.” “That’s what we measured… in the lab. Now we were able to replicate those measurements in nature, and we found that capability to be even greater. The little monkeys could hibernate at 0°C, without any damage to their tissues!” Biologist Roberto Nespolo, from the Austral University of Chile, holds a monito del monte, a marsupial that lives in forests and is native to Patagonia, in South America. Nespolo has made it his life’s work to understand how these tiny creatures from the southwestern tip of South America accomplish this feat, something that could help us better understand human metabolism and perhaps even devise solutions for long-distance space travel. . Space agencies say that if humans want to get to Mars, figuring out how to induce hibernation in astronauts could be the best way to save mission costs, shrink spacecraft and keep crews healthy. “Natural hibernators have a number of physiological adaptations that allow them to almost stop metabolism, without injury, and wake up weeks later just fine,” he said. “So a lot of colleagues are trying to identify those mechanisms to apply to possible human hibernation, or also to medical applications like organ preservation.” Little monkeys (Dromiciops gliroides) hibernate together in a nest. The little monkey is a zoological curiosity in more ways than one. Like kangaroos and koalas, it is a marsupial that raises its children in bags or pouches. However, the little monkey is more closely related to its Australian brothers than to other marsupials, such as opossums, that live in America, something that has puzzled scientists for a long time. Scientists consider the two species of monito (Dromiciops gliroides and D. bozinovici) to be essentially living fossils, part of a lineage called Microbiotheria that is ancestral to Australian and American marsupials, making them the only living representative of a group animal thought to be extinct. As a “relict species” (surviving remnants), the monito acts as a window into the past that can help scientists understand how they have survived for so long, Nespolo’s research suggests. The temperate forest habitat in which the little monkey lives is shrinking, but Nespolo is confident that the tiny creature, whose direct ancestors once roamed Earth’s ancient supercontinent Gondwana, will continue to thrive. “I have hope for the little monkey because they are very resilient. They are able to adapt to change as long as their habitat continues to exist,” Nespolo said on the CNN original series.

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