Site icon Conservation news

Hog-nosed rat discovered in Sulawesi is so unique it’s been placed in its own genus

  • The Hog-nosed shrew rat (Hyorhinomys stuempkei) is a carnivorous rodent discovered by a team of scientists from Louisiana State University’s Museum Victoria and the Australia’s Museum Victoria.
  • Besides its “hog-nose,” other notable features of the rat include its “vampire teeth” and “curiously” long pubic hair.
  • DNA sequencing confirmed the rat is not just a new species but a new genus.

Scientists have discovered a new species of rat in Sulawesi, Indonesia that’s so unique it’s been placed in its own genus.

The Hog-nosed shrew rat (Hyorhinomys stuempkei) is a carnivorous rodent discovered by a team of scientists from Louisiana State University’s Museum of Natural Science and Australia’s Museum Victoria, who summarized their findings in an article published in the Journal of Mammalogy.

The rat has a number of strange features, like the flat, pink nose and forward-facing nostrils it was named for, but also including long hind legs possibly used for hopping, long white incisors protruding from a tiny mouth (which have been described as “vampire teeth”) and, apparently, “curiously” long pubic hair that the scientists theorize might help in successful reproduction somehow.

Another peculiar attribute, which the scientists say they’ve never heard of in any other rodent, is a missing jaw muscle that helps with vigorous chewing. The hog-nosed shrew rat eats mushier fare like earthworms and beetle larvae, the authors of the report said.

Jake Esselstyn, curator at the LSU Museum of Natural Science, said in a statement that DNA sequencing had confirmed the hog-nosed rat is so genetically different from any other species that it belongs to its own genus.

But that’s not exactly surprising, given the geographic complexity of the island of Sulawesi, which is so mountainous and difficult to survey that little research has been conducted there. The site where Esselstyn and team made their discovery was on perennially rainy Mt. Dako at an elevation of 1,600 meters (about 5,250 feet), two days from the nearest village.

This is the third discovery Esselstyn and his team have made in the same area. They described the Few-toothed shrew rat (Paucidentomys vermidax) in 2012 and the Sulawesi water rat (Waiomys mamasae) in 2014, both of which could not be placed within any existing group, like the Hog-nosed shrew rat, and were ultimately listed as new genera.

“There’s a lot of bio-geographic complexity at Sulawesi,” Esselstyn said. “So we’re not too surprised that we’re finding new things. But our team has been a bit surprised by the degree to which these animals are really novel. They are not just subtly different organisms, but really charismatically different.”

The team first discovered the Hog-nosed shrew rat in 2013, but Esselstyn says he and colleague Kevin Rowe, senior curator at Museum Victoria, knew right away that they’d found an animal that had yet to be described to science. “We had never seen anything like this. It was obviously a new species.”

Photo by Kevin Rowe.
Photo by Kevin Rowe.
Photo by Kevin Rowe.
Exit mobile version