The Rafting Monkey is mostly about South American mammals, particularly extinct ones that lived there during the past 66 million years (the Cenozoic Era, also known as the “Age of Mammals”). Many of these mammals have few or no living descendants. For that reason, they are unknown to most scientists and members of the public alike. This blog aims to rectify that deficiency.

Darin in the field in central Chile.

The Rafting Monkey is authored by Darin A. Croft, a Cleveland-based paleomammalogist. Before graduate school, Darin knew almost nothing of the history of mammals in South America, even though he always had a fascination with both mammals (he spent several summers working as an animal keeper at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo) and fossils (thanks to some influential teachers and the Nebraska State Museum). So when he decided to pursue a PhD at the University of Chicago, he knew he wanted to study fossil mammals but had no particular group in mind. Darin ended up working on a rather obscure group of extinct plant-eaters known as archaeohyracids from a 31 million-year-old site in Central Chile known as Tinguiririca. After traveling to northern Chile to look for younger (18 million-year-old) fossils with one of his advisors, John Flynn, he was hooked.

Since earning his PhD, Darin has hunted fossil mammals throughout much of South America, including sites in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru, and has published scientific papers on a wide variety of groups. Darin’s book, Horned Armadillos and Rafting Monkeys, is the result of a collaboration with paleoartist extraordinaire Velizar Simeonovski and is intended to be a thorough yet accessible introduction to some of the most interesting species that lived in South America during the past 66 million years.

In addition to studying extinct mammals, Darin teaches the detailed anatomy of Homo sapiens to medical and graduate students at Case Western Reserve University and teaches a course on mammal diversity and evolution to undergraduates and graduate students.