New species of mammal discovered

Guest post by Dr. Larry Underwood

Recently, scientists from the City College of New York have announced the discovery of a new species of mammal. The Overlook Spiny Pocket Mouse, Heteromys catopterius, is restricted to high mountainous areas in northern Venezuela. The mouse is fairly closely related to the kangaroo rats and pocket mice found in Mexico and the southwestern United States. None are found in Virginia.

Some people are surprised that new species of mammals are still being discovered. In fact, dozens of new mammals and birds are described each year. Last year, saw the discovery of a giant rat from Papua New Guinea and the world’s smallest deer from Nepal. New species were also discovered in Asia, Africa, and in South America.

It is unlikely that a new species of mammal or bird will be discovered in North America but in the more remote areas of the world new species of birds and mammals are always possible.

It’s important to note that these are not really new species. Undoubtedly the Overlooked Spiny Pocket Mouse has been around for hundreds of thousands if not millions of years. What’s new is that we just discovered its existence.

Such discoveries are important. Most of these new species are important components of their ecosystems even though they have been undetected.

Close relatives of the Overlook Spiny Pocket Mouse are important food items for predators. They in turn are major consumers of plants in their ecosystems.

Now that it’s been discovered the Overlook Spiny Pocket Mouse needs to be studied so that its full value to the ecosystem can be determined. We’d better hurry. The area in which it lives is under threat from development. It deserves and needs to be protected.

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