Researchers have described a previously unknown species of tree shrew in the forests of Vietnam. The study was published July 2 in the open access journal ZooKeys.
The species, named Crocidura sapaensis after Sa Pa District, where it was collected, was discovered after genetic analysis revealed that it was distinct from three closely-related species also found in Vietnam.
“Our study concerns three species of Crocidura occurring in Vietnam, namely C. attenuata, C. tanakae and C. wuchihensis, and we came across an undescribed fourth species revealed by molecular analysis,” said lead author Paulina Jenkins, a zoologist at London’s Natural History Museum, in a statement. “While the molecular studies of Vietnamese material confirmed some of the results of the contemporaneous morphological studies, a number of anomalies were equally revealed, indicating the presence of several morphologically similar but molecularly distinct taxa.”
With more than 180 species found worldwide, Crocidura is the largest of any mammal genus. Shrews — which are omnivorous, feeding on seeds, fruit, and invertebrates — are the smallest non-flying mammals in the world.
From the 1960’s to the early 1990’s, Vietnam has one of the world’s highest deforestation rates. But since the mid-1990’s, forest cover across the country has increased substantially, mostly the result of reforestation programs and the establishment of industrial tree plantations. Nevertheless, old-growth forest cover has continued to decline rapidly in Vietnam. Habitat loss and hunting has put many of the country’s species — especially large-bodied mammals — at risk.
CITATION: Jenkins PD, Abramov AV, Bannikova AA, Rozhnov VV (2013). Bones and genes: resolution problems in three Vietnamese species of Crocidura (Mammalia, Soricomorpha, Soricidae) and the description of an additional new species. ZooKeys 313: 61-79. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.313.4823
This article was written for Mongabay.com and re-posted on Focusing on Wildlife.