Three Tiny Mouse Lemur Species Found In Madagascar
Experts have found three new primate species in Madagascar. They are mouse lemurs living in the South and East of the island country.
These are small, nocturnal primates in this island. While just two species existed two decades ago, the numbers have jumped to 24 species today.
Mouse lemurs have not been discovered so far because they look similar. Being nocturnal, they also tend to hide and can be identified best with genetic methods.
"By using new, objective methods to assess genetic differences between individuals, we were able to find independent evidence that these three mouse lemurs represent new species," said Peter Kappeler, Head of the Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit at the German Primate Center and one of the researchers behind the study. "The genetic techniques we used could facilitate species identification, thus also contributing to further new descriptions in other animal groups."
The same research groups described mouse lemur species few years ago, which were related. The smallest primate in the world is Madame Berthe's mouse lemur, weighing just 30g.
Identifying the species helps scientists in their conservation efforts.
"To know the exact distribution area of individual species is necessary to identify functioning protected areas," Kappeler said. "Furthermore, this new information is an important element towards better understanding how biodiversity in Madagascar arose."
With above 100 known species of lemurs getting threatened, according to the IUCN "Red List," they are the world's most endangered group of mammals that have got reduced due to changes in the environment.
The new study shows that mouse lemurs are more diverse than expected, and indicates that more species will be uncovered using genetic techniques.
The study was recently published in the journal Molecular Ecology.