15 June 2011

New species of mice discovered

Seven species of forest mice were discovered in Luzon island by a group of American and Filipino biologists, bringing the number of native mammals in Luzon to 49, or up by 17 percent.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje said the discovery of new species is very timely with the declaration of the years 2011-2020 as “Decade on Biodiversity” by the United Nations (UN) and the national government.
 “The international community has recognized that our country has among the highest rates of discovery in the world. Filipinos should be aware of such discoveries, to show a collective pride and give a more positive meaning to the expression, ‘only in the Philippines’,” he said.

The formal descriptions of the seven species were published in the May 2011 issue of Fieldiana, the peer-reviewed journal of the Field Museum of Natural History (FMNH) in Chicago.

The nine co-authors of the article include biologists from the University of the Philippines, Philippine National Museum, Conservation International (CI) -Philippines, Utah Museum of Natural History, and Florida State University.

Dr. Lawrence Heaney of the FMNH, project leader and the lead author of the Fieldiana, described the species as “wonderful little mice that live in forested regions high in the mountain… often abundant, (yet) they actively avoid humans and rarely cause any harm. They prefer to eat earthworms and seeds on the forest floor.”

“It is extraordinary that so many new species of mammals remain to be discovered in the Philippines. In the past 10 years, we’ve published formal descriptions of ten other species, while other biologists have described five more.
 
And we are nowhere close to the end of our discoveries,” Danilo Balete, the project’s field team leader, said.

“The Philippines may have the greatest concentration of unique species of animals of any country in the world,” Balete added.
 
Paje said two of the species live in, or are endemic to, Mt. Tapulao in Zambales; two in Mt. Banahaw; another two in the Mingan Mountains of Aurora Province; and the remaining specie in the Sierra Madre mountain range of northeastern Luzon.
 
Source: Manila Bulletin

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