The white-faced saki (Pithecia pithecia) are sometimes known as "flying monkeys" as they're able to leap as far as 30 feet between tree branches ! These flying monkeys are not native to the land of Oz, but instead can be found inhabiting the rainforests of Brazil and some parts of Venezuela.
The common name of this species is inspired by the distinctive pale mask of fur of male saki (see photo above). However, this species of monkey exhibits strong sexual dimorphism. Female white-faced sakis actually are completely covered in dark brown or black fur with no discernible white patch on the face, despite the name! While both male and female monkeys are similar in appearance at birth, the unique white mask in males forms as they mature over the next 3-4 years .
White-faced saki's diets primarily consist of fruits, seeds, and they will occasionally consume small mammals or birds. Due to their diets, the white-faced saki plays a large role in native ecosystems dispersing seeds in their waste miles away from the source . While the wild population of white-faced saki is considered to be of least concern by the IUCN, their population is in a declining trend. White-faced saki's are common in the pet trade due to their charisma and availability. If the wild populations cannot mate fast enough to replace the individuals that are captured, this may lead to fracturing populations .
Today, we share the chromosome-length assembly of the white-faced saki named Jolene from the Houston Zoo. This was one of the very fist samples we have collaborated on with the Houston Zoo, and only the 16th sample in our collection! This is a $1K genome assembly (cN50=53kb; sN50=104Mb): for more details see our Methods page.
See below how the 24 chromosomes of the white-faced saki relate to our own 23 chromosomes. Despite the proximity in the chromosome count, the chromosomes appear to be very different, with a lot of rearrangements that have accumulated in the approximately 43M years separating us and the saki monkey .
See the interactive contact map of the chromosomes below, and don't forget to follow up to the assembly page for more info!