Site icon Conservation news

Strange spiny rodent discovered in the Amazon

Strange spiny rodent discovered in the Amazon

Strange spiny rodent discovered in the Amazon
January 24, 2007

Scientists have discovered a previously unknown species of arboreal rodent in the cloud forests of Peru. The species, named Isothrix barbarabrownae, is described in the current issue of Mastozoologia, the principal mammalogy journal of South America.

The rodent was discovered at an altitude of 6,200 feet in a river valley in Peru’s Manu National Park and Biosphere Reserve, one of the world’s most biodiverse protected areas. The valley proved to be particularly rich, yielding 11 species of mammal that were new to science including one opossum, seven bats, and three rodents.

“Like other tropical mountain ranges, such as the Himalayas, Ruwenzoris, Virungas and Kinabalu, the Andes support a fantastic variety of habitats,” said Bruce Patterson of The Field Museum in Chicago and lead author of the paper describing the species. “These in turn support some of the richest faunas on the planet.”

This illustration depicts Isothrix barbarabrownae, a newly discovered species of Neotropical rodent, in its arboreal habitat. The strikingly unusual animal has long dense fur, a broad blocky head, thickly furred tail and a blackish crest of fur on the crown, nape and shoulders. It is about the size of a squirrel. Illustration by Nancy Halliday, Courtesy of The Field Museum.

Isothrix barbarabrownae, which is about the size of a squirrel, has been classified as a species of “spiny rat” though its discovery has wider implications for the evolutionary relationships of the rodent family, according to the researchers.

“The new species is not only a handsome novelty,” Patterson said. “Preliminary DNA analyses suggest that its nearest relatives, all restricted to the lowlands, may have arisen from Andean ancestors. The newly discovered species casts a striking new light on the evolution of an entire group of arboreal rodents.”

Isothrix barbarabrownae is named after Barbara E. Brown, who has worked at The Field Museum since 1970.

This article is based on a news release from The Field Museum.