Discovery in the Mountains

A BBC report late last week announced the discovery of a curious-looking new mammal species discovered in Tanzania’s Udzungwa Mountains.  The creature shares ancestry with other African mammals such as elephants, sea cows, aardvarks and hyraxes – though this was about 100 million years ago!  The cat-sized animal, with a long grey face, a long flexible snout and a bulky, amber body, a jet-black rump and it stands on spindly legs, is a type of elephant shrew dubbed Rhynochocyon udzungwensis.  Try saying that 10 times fast! {photo: BBC News}

“This is one of the most exciting discoveries of my career,” said Galen Rathbun from the California Academy of Sciences – who was part of the team that confirmed that the animal was new to science.  Rathbun noted of the species, “They are behaviorally fairly simple…but they are so bizarre-looking and a lot of their behavioral ecology is so unique and interesting…”  This is not the first new species found in the Udzungwa Mountains – the Udzungwa partridge, the Phillips’ Congo shrew, and several others share the honor.  Dr. Rathbun also emphasized the importance of protecting this “hotspot.”

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