Scientists discovered for the first time a tropical rodent that until now had been only described in documents. The name of the small animal is Zenkerella insignis, and it was found on the Bioko Island from Equatorial Guinea.
The rodent is supposed to have a lineage of more than 50 million years. Even so, it had little changed over the millennia. The small creature resembles a squirrel but has a scales at the base of its tail.
The scientists know almost nothing about the lifestyle, the behavior and the population details of the Zenkerella because no one had ever seen a specimen alive. The researchers only had incomplete skeletons of the animals, based on which they described a species that was supposed to be still living in remote areas of the globe.
The paleontologists believe that the rodent may reveal a lot of information on the mammal evolution. Therefore, as the animal was supposedly seen on the Bioko Island, a full year monitoring was performed on the small area in order to spot the living fossil.
Their efforts proved to be successful, and three specimens were discovered in Bioko. However, all three animals had been killed before the scientists managed to get to them.
This minor glitch did not stop the enthusiasm of the researchers, which were very glad to find a complete specimen of the species.
Zenkerella is related to a flying family of rodents which is called Anomalure. In the past, the two taxons split and the Zenkerella does not have parachute membrane. Evolutionary biologists do not take into consideration losing the flying ability, as it’s regarded as an advanced adaptation.
The small rodent is supposed to live in Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinee. It had been first scientifically described in 1898, and since then no one ever saw the animal alive.
As the Zenkerella lives in moist lowland forests from the tropical and subtropical areas, it is believed that its habitat is threatened, but no one knows exactly how many exemplars are left.
Over the last years, the researchers found several other living fossils, such as the pygmy right whale which has a 17-million year lineage, the red colobus monkeys or the fuzzy body mollusk Allonautilus scrobiculatus that were thought to be extinct for decades.
However, there is still uncertainty laying over the discovery of species once thought to be extinct. The researchers do not have sufficient data to diagnose populations trends and to propose conservation plans.
Image Source: Wikipedia
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