A seriously cute new species of elephant shrew described as a cross between a miniature antelope and an anteater and resembling a fat mouse with a super-long snout was recently discovered by researchers at the California Academy of Sciences, who unveiled their discovery in the Journal of Mammology this week. Two Bay Area scientists found it by accident. It’s related to elephants and can fit in the palm of your hand. At first glance, it looks like a rat with a long tail and small furry body. But it has a long nose.
Named Macroscelides micus, the adorable little guy is actually more closely related to the elephant than it is to a mouse, as research associate Dr. Galen Rathbun told.
Rathburn and colleagues were exploring a remote part of Namibia when they found what they believed might be a new species of round eared sengi or elephant shrew. After collecting specimens and comparing them to those in natural history collections in London, Los Angeles, South Africa and their own, they were able to compare that it was indeed a new species. And they were surprised to learn through observation that the little creatures are monogamous, which is fairly rare in nature.
In a statement from the museum, Rathburn says, “With only about a dozen new species of mammal discovered in the wild each year, it is amazing that the Academy has been involved in describing three new sengis in the last decade.”
Rathburn is headed back with the team to Namibia in September to study how the animal survives in the harsh, Mars-like conditions of this part of the world. A taxidermy Macroscelides micus is now on display in the Namib Desert diorama exhibit in the Academy’s African Hall.
Many strongly feel that it inhabits an ancient volcanic formation in Namibia. Dumbacher, a curator of birds and mammals at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, said, “It turns out this thing that looks and acts like shrews that evolved in Africa is more closely related to elephants.”
Moreover, John Dumbacher, one of a team of biologists who discovered the new species told the media that as the shrew sports red fur it blends in with the colour of its surroundings. The total weight of the creature is an ounce with measurement of 7.5 inches in length including its tail. It was only after its genetic testing that researchers could conclude the species to be more closely related to large mammals however.
The creature eats termites and insects like an anteater and is unusual in that it is monogamous.
The species usually gives birth to twins or triplets, which are covered in fur and ready to run straight away.
Details of the research are due to be laid out in the Journal of Mammology.
The California Academy of Sciences scientists will return to Namibia in September to study the animal’s habitat and how it survives in such harsh desert conditions.
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