New Mammals of 2010
As 2010 draws to a close, there are all kinds of recap/review lists floating around. Top news stories of 2010, top albums of 2010, and public figures that passed away in 2010. Lists of the best books, movies, worst political bloopers, and most significant natural disasters of the previous 12 months. To jump on the band wagon with my own twist, I present a review of a handful of the new mammal species described by science in 2010:
A snub-nosed monkey, Rhinopithecus strykeri, from Myanmar (Geissmann et al. 2011) that apparently can’t help sneezing in the rain. This Himalayan simian has inflated lips and almost no external nose, really, just nostril cavities. Locals (who have known of this species for a long time, as is usually with species “new” to science), claim that when it rains, these cavernous nostrils are vulnerable to bombardment by raindrops, causing the monkeys to sneeze frequently. Rather undignified, yet fascinating.
A new species of white-tailed mouse in the Nakanai mountains of Papua New Guinea which may represent an entire new genus.
Also from Papua New Guinea, the Bosavi woolley rat (genus Mallomys_), a gigantic rodent discovered in a kilometer-deep volcanic crater. This cat-sized rat is apparently endemic to this island (McGavin 2010).
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Yet another fruit of researcher’s labors in New Guinea is a Yoda-ish bat with bright yellow ears and curly tube nostrils.
Staying with chiropterans, it appears that a new Ecuadorian bat may have gone extinct before it was even recognized as a species: Myotis diminutus was first collected over 3 decades ago, but was only described as a distinct species late this year (Moratelli and Wilson 2010). This bat, as the name suggests, was the smallest Myotis species in South America. The dated specimen from which the species was described was collected at the Rio Palenque Scientific Center in the western Andes, but the animal has not been sighted or collected in many years. Due to the many threats to the forest habitats of the Andes, it is feared that this species exists only as a museum specimen. Extensive surveys are needed to establish for certain whether this is the case.
And, on a more positive note, a species thought to be previously extinct was rediscovered: the hairy-nosed otter, Lutra sumatrana, was found in the Deramakot Forest Reserve, in Sabah, Malaysia. The last record of L. sumatrana in Sabah is a museum specimen collected over a century ago, and the most recent citing anywhere in the globe was a road-kill found in Brunei 13 years ago.
The new sighting was achieved using remote cameras designed to non-invasively survey wildlife, which are what I’m using in my own thesis in Ecuador. Nice to see that the technique is producing amazing data like this in some of the world’s biodiversity hotspots!
And of course, we all know that carnivores are nearest and dearest to my heart, so I’ve saved the best for last: the first new carnivorous mammal described in 24 years! Durrell’s vontsira, Salanoia durelli, is named after the eminent naturalist Gerald Durrell. This animal was referred to as “mongoose-like” in the media, which it superficially is, but it’s actually a member of the Eupleridae, a family of carnivorans (the most famous of which is the fossa, Cryptoprocta ferox) which are endemic to Madagascar. The vontsiras are members of the sub-family Euplerinae, which were previously classified as viverrids (the family which includes civets, genets, linsangs, and the binturong), while mongooses are actually herpestids anyway. So anyway, looks like a mongoose, and its closest relative, Salanoia concolor, used to have the common name “brown-tailed mongoose” but it is not a “real” mongoose, which is why it is now properly called the brown-tailed montsira.
This new vontsira is fascinating: it dwells in marshy habitats around Lac Aloatra, the largest lake in Madagascar. It has extremely robust teeth, which allow it to prey on crustaceans and mollusks.
While its marshy habitat is part of what makes this species unique ( S. concolor is a forest-dweller), it also makes it vulnerable. Lac Alaotra, the only lake in which this species has been recorded, suffers from pollution, over exploitation by fisherman, destruction of surrounding marshlands for agriculture, and a variety of invasive species ranging from exotic fish to the Indian civet ( Viverricula indica ). While the exact conservation status of S. durelli has yet to be determined, we can only hope that we did not discover this species just in time to see it disappear.
So, not a bad line-up for 2010, let’s hope these guys can hang in there, and I can’t wait to see what 2011 will bring for us!
Durbin, J., S. M. Funk, F. Hawkins, D. M. Hills, P. D. Jenkins, C. B. Moncrieff, and F. B. Ralainasolo. 2010. Investigations into the status of a new taxon of Salanoia (Mammalia: Carnivora: Eupleridae) from the marshes of Lac Alaotra, Madagascar. _ Systematics and Biodiversity 8_: 341-355.
Geissmann, T., N. Lwin, S. Soe Aung, T. N. Aung, Z. M. Aung, T. H. Hla, M. Grindley, and F. Momberg. 2011. A new species of snub-nosed monkey, genus Rhinopithecus Milne-Edwards 1872 (Primates, Colobinae) from northern Kachin state, northeastern Myanmar. _American Journal of Primatology _73: 96-107.
McGavin, G. C. 2010. Bug World: Myths and Marvels. Bioscience 60: 646-647.
Moratelli, R. and D. E. Wilson. 2010. A new species of Myotis Kaup, 1829 (Chiroptera, Vespertilionidae) from Ecuador. Mammalian Biology doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2010.10.003