New rodent with novel features discovered

New rat discovered
© Kevin C. Rowe/Museum Victoria

Hi there, cutie!

Deep in a remote part of mountainous Indonesia, Jake Esselstyn from Louisiana State University and a team of researchers have discovered a new species of shrew rat. The rodent is in possession of unique features never seen by the scientific community before.

While doing field research, Esselstyn and Museum Victoria Senior Curator of Mammals Kevin Rowe inadvertently both caught the same type of animal in their traps and both knew immediately they were looking at a new species.

"We had never seen anything like this. It was obviously a new species. We came back to camp and were both surprised that the other one had it as well," Esselstyn said.

The shrew rat has a large, flat, pink nose and forward-facing nostrils, earning it the name of hog-nosed rat (Hyorhinomys stuempkei). The cutie also has extremely large ears, long hind legs that may be used for hopping (bonus cute points for that), long white incisors and very long urogenital hairs. It is so genetically different from any other species that the scientists have described it as a new genus.

Although lengthy incisors are a trait of shrew rats, the new guy has especially long incisors. Another unique characteristic of the hog-nosed rat is that it has no jaw muscle attachment point, called the coronoid process on the dentary bone, like most mammals have.

"I don't know of any other rodents that have lost the coronoid process completely," Esselstyn said.

The loss of the coronoid process reveals jaw musculature that lacks I strength and a diet that does not require vigorous chewing. The scientists found that the new species eats earthworms and beetle larvae. Ok, maybe that part is not so cute, but we welcome the new species nonetheless.

Tags: Animals | Asia


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