An international group of biologists led by Dr Jack Dumbacher from California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco has described a new species of elephant-shrew (round-eared sengi) from remote northwestern Namibia.
The newly discovered species has been named the Etendeka round-eared sengi (Macroscelides micus). The name Etendeka is from the Himba/Otji-Herero language of the Himba people from northwestern Namibia, and refers to the distinctive flat-topped mountains and rust-colored substrates of the region.
The Etendeka round-eared sengi is the smallest known member of the 19 sengis in Macroscelidea, an order of mammals endemic to Africa.
Dr Dumbacher and his colleagues encountered an unusual sengi from Namibia while examining museum specimens collected in southwestern Africa.
The specimen was smaller than known Macroscelides species. It had rust-colored fur, a large, hairless gland on the underside of its tail, and lacked dark skin pigment.
Genetic analysis showed important differences between this specimen and other Macroscelides.
The scientists then organized nine expeditions to Namibia to collect live specimens of the previously unknown species.
Comparing the specimens to those in natural history collections in Windhoek, Pretoria, London, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and further genetic analysis, confirmed that the team had, in fact, found 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,” said Dr Dumbacher, who is the first author of a paper describing the new species in the Journal of Mammalogy (full paper).
The Etendeka round-eared sengi lives in a remote area of Namibia, on the inland edge of the Namib Desert at the base of the Etendeka Plateau.
John P. Dumbacher et al. 2014. A new species of round-eared sengi (genus Macroscelides) from Namibia. Journal of Mammalogy, vol. 95, no. 3, pp. 443-454; doi: 10.1644/13-MAMM-A-159
This article was first published by Sci-News.com