Wednesday, November 26, 2014 Headlines & Global News

New Species Of Elephant, Aardvark-Related Shrew Discovered In Namib Desert

By Rebekah Marcarelli r.marcarelli@hngn.com | Jun 27, 2014 02:34 PM EDT

A  Round-Eared Elephant-Shrew
A Round-Eared Elephant-Shrew (Photo : Photo : Galen Rathbun/California Academy of Sciences)

A new species of elephant shrew has been discovered in Africa's Namib Desert; the animal is closely related to the sea cow, aardvark, and of course the elephant.

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The newly-discovered critter is called the round-eared sengi, or Macroscelides micus. The animals is part of the order Macroscelidea, which currently contains 19 sengis. Members of Macroscelidea are characterized by their narrow snouts, LiveScience reported.

The first representative of this species was collected Michael Griffin of the Namibia Ministry of Environment and Tourism by the Etendeka volcanic formation. When the species was first spotted researchers thought it was a Macroscelides flavicaudatus.

"We knew that it looked a little odd, but it was the genetic analyses that suggested that it was really very different," researcher John Dumbacher, curator of ornithology and mammalogy at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, told Live Science. "Once we got back to the field and saw several live individuals, it was clear that they differed from M. flavicaudatus in many ways, and that this wasn't just an 'odd' individual."

The team found the animal was smaller than Macroscelides flavicaudatus, had rust-colored fur, lacked darks skin pigment, and had a hairless gland on the underside of its tail, a California Academy of Sciences news release reported. The team compared the animals with other specimens, revealing they had discovered a new species.

"Had our colleagues not collected those first invaluable specimens, we would never have realized that this was in fact a new species, since the differences between this and all other known species are very subtle," Dumbacher said in the news release. "Several museum collections were instrumental in determining that what we had was truly new to science, highlighting the value of collections for this type of work. Genetically, Macroscelides micus is very different from other members of the genus and it's exciting to think that there are still areas of the world where even the mammal fauna is unknown and waiting to be explored."

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