New spiny pocket mouse discovered in the mountainous rainforests of Venezuela

Jeremy Hance
February 08, 2010

Researchers have discovered a new species of spiny mouse that lives on four mountainous forests in the Cordillera de la Costa mountain range, which runs along Venezuela's northern coast.

Discovered by Dr. Robert P. Anderson, Associate Professor of Biology at The City College of New York, and Ph.D. student EliƩcer E. GutiƩrrez, the new spiny mouse has been named Heteromys catopterius, which means the 'height that commands the view'. The mouse has come to be known as the Overlook Spiny Pocket Mouse.

"Most people are surprised to learn that new species of mammals are still being discovered," Professor Anderson said. "Sometimes they are discovered based on genetic work, but this is a case where anatomical studies made it clear a species existed that had never been recognized by biologists before."

The overlook spiny pocket mouse's closest relative is the Caribbean spiny pocket mouse, but the new species is darker and longer with a wider skull and less rounded ears. It also inhabits mountainous forests (between 350 to 2,450 meters above sea level), whereas the Caribbean spiny pocket mouse is found in lowlands.

Since, the overlook spiny pocket mouse is regulated to higher elevations it is likely threatened by climate change, explains Anderson, who is building climatic models to see how the mouse's habitat will change as the area warms.

The discovery was published in the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, and the research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

View of the Cordillera de la Costa. Photo by: Robert Anderson.

Inside the overlook spiny pocket mouse's habitat. Photo by: Eliecer E. Gutierrez.

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Jeremy Hance (February 08, 2010).

New spiny pocket mouse discovered in the mountainous rainforests of Venezuela.