New elephant shrew species discovery in Namibia


This video from East Africa says about itself:

Elephant Shrew, Macroscelidea order, eats ants termites worms and makes paths to dash from when a threat appears. Although diurnal they are seldom seen.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

New species of mouse-like creature with ‘elephant trunk’ discovered

A mouse-like creature with an elephant’s “trunk” has been discovered in a remote desert in Namibia.

The new species is known as an “elephant shrew” and is a type of round-eared sengi.

The tiny creature is the smallest known member of the sengi family with a body just 9cm long and despite its size, is more closely related to elephants, manatees and aardvarks than to shrews.

It was discovered by researchers from the California Academy of Sciences during research on their cousins in southwestern Africa.

Dr Jack Dumbacher and colleague Dr Galen Rathbun noticed that one animal differed from any they had seen before, being smaller, with rust-coloured fur and a new hairless gland underneath its tail.

Genetic analysis confirmed that they had discovered a new species and their findings will be published in the Journal of Mammology.

It is the third new species of sengi discovered in the wild in the past decade.

Dr Dumbacher, the Academy’s curator of ornithology and mammalogy, thanked colleagues for collecting “invaluable” specimens that allowed them to discover the difference.

He added: “Genetically, Macroscelides micus is very different from other members of the genus and it’s exciting to think that there are still small areas of the world where even the mammal fauna is unknown and waiting to be explored.”

Found on the inland edge of the Namib Desert at the base of the Etendeka Plateau, scientists believe the creature went undescribed for so long because of the challenges of doing scientific research in such an isolated area.

Yet it is the isolation and unique environmental conditions of the region that have given rise to the sengi and other unique organisms.

An Etendeka round-eared sengi has been added to the Namib Desert exhibit in the Academy’s natural history museum.

It joins a replica of Welwitschia mirabilis, an ancient plant also native to the Namib Desert that can live for up to 2,500 years.

See also here.

One small mammal is experiencing a triumphant return to its long-ago spot on the tree of life. Scientists have elevated a subspecies of giant sengi, or elephant-shrew, to full species status. Aided by genetic information gathered from the California Academy of Sciences’ vast mammal collection, Academy researchers collaborated with colleagues from the University of Alaska Museum (UAM), the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania, and the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago (FMNH) to explore the evolutionary relationships among giant sengis. In the process, the team discovered that a white-tailed subspecies of giant sengi from the Congo Basin and western Uganda was genetically distinct enough to return it to full species status, as originally designated upon its discovery in the late nineteenth century. Rhynchocyon cirnei stuhlmanni (now R. stuhlmanni) follows three new sengi species discoveries from the last decade. The team’s revision of species relationships among giant sengis appears this summer in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution: here.

Long considered the cradle of many mammal species, Africa no longer lives up to that image with the discovery in the Wyoming badlands of 54 million-year-old skeletal remains of the first elephant shrew, said Jonathan Bloch, assistant curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Bloch described his team’s finding in the March 24 issue of the journal Nature: here.

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6 thoughts on “New elephant shrew species discovery in Namibia

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