New Mouse Lemur Species Found

Microcebus ganzhorni is named in honor of the Hamburg ecologist Prof. Jörg Ganzhorn who has worked on ecology and conservation in Madagascar for more than thirty years. Photo by G. Donati via Mongabay.

Madagascar is a place of wonder and near-fantastical wildlife, though sadly many of their ecosystems are at risk, as referenced in this UNESCO World Heritage Site post. So it’s no surprise to read that new species are being found there. Mike Garowecki reports for Mongabay:

There are now 24 known species of mouse lemur, all of them found in Madagascar.

Scientists with the German Primate Center (DPZ), the University of Kentucky, the American Duke Lemur Center, and Madagascar’s Université d’Antananarivo have found three new species of mouse lemurs that live in the South and East of Madagascar. They described the new species — Microcebus boraha, Microcebus ganzhorni, and Microcebus manitatra — in the journal Molecular Ecology.

Though their name and appearance might suggest that they are rodents, mouse lemurs are in fact primates. What’s more, all mouse lemur species look extremely similar: they are small, nocturnal animals with brown fur and large eyes. It was only through the use of advanced methods that allow for more precise measurements of genetic differences that the team of researchers was able to establish the three new species.

“By using new, objective methods to assess genetic differences between individuals, we were able to find independent evidence that these three mouse lemurs represent new species,” Peter Kappeler, Head of the Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit at the German Primate Center, said in a statement.

Kappeler and team also performed their own analysis that confirmed the status of the previously described 21 species. “The genetic techniques we used could facilitate species identification, thus also contributing to further new descriptions in other animal groups,” he said.

As recently as two decades ago, there were only two known species of mouse lemurs, but new genetic profiling methods in combination with expeditions to remote areas have brought that number up to two dozen.

Read the rest of the original article here.

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