Thursday, January 31, 2008

A "new" mammal discovered

The mountains of Tanzania are proving to be a goldmine of "new" critters for zoologists and other researchers. Having already discovered never-before-seen species of birds, shrews and monkeys, this is the latest and perhaps oddest animal to make an appearance in the Udzungwa Mountains.
The bizarre-looking creature, dubbed Rhynochocyon udzungwensis, is a type of giant elephant shrew, or sengi.

The cat-sized animal, which is reported in the Journal of Zoology, looks like a cross between a miniature antelope and a small ant eater.

It has a grey face, a long, flexible snout, a bulky, amber body, a jet-black rump and it stands on spindly legs.

"This is one of the most exciting discoveries of my career," said Galen Rathbun, from the California Academy of Sciences, who helped to confirm the animal was new to science along with an international team of colleagues.

The Udzungwa Mountains have been declared one of 34 World Biodiversity Hotspots. Often called the Galapagos Islands of Africa, the Udzungwa Mountains contain tropical rainforests which stand out from the savannahs of the lower plains. Most of the life in the Udzungwa region has been isolated for millions of years.

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