Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Mammal Species Identified In Australia

Date:
November 25, 2002
Source:
Earthwatch Institute
Summary:
In the current crisis of global biodiversity loss, the discovery of new species is a welcome addition. But the recent finding that the mountain brushtail possum, an arboreal marsupial mammal of Australian wet forests, is actually made up of two species also poses new conservation challenges.

In the current crisis of global biodiversity loss, the discovery of new species is a welcome addition. But the recent finding that the mountain brushtail possum, an arboreal marsupial mammal of Australian wet forests, is actually made up of two species also poses new conservation challenges.

Related Articles


The new possum species is proposed in an article in the latest Australian Journal of Zoology (Volume 50, Issue 4), authored by Earthwatch-supported biologist Dr. David Lindenmayer (Australian National University) and colleagues. "Geographic dimorphism in the Mountain Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus caninus) - the case for a new species," describes how the northern and southern populations of the mountain brushtail possum are both morphologically and genetically distinct.

"This article represents the last 10 years of data on the genetics and morphology of mountain brushtails where we have worked on them," said Lindenmayer, principal investigator of the Earthwatch-supported Australia's Forest Marsupials project. "We knew we had two species on our hands last year when we got the genetic data to add to the morphology data."

A hiker in the woods might not distinguish the two species, says Lindenmayer, but northern mountain brushtails in the forests of New South Wales and Queensland have smaller ears, shorter feet, and a longer, brushier tail than those in Victorian forests to the south. Although there is variability in both populations, years of morphological data collected by Lindenmayer and colleagues confirm that these differences are statistically significant.

Genetic distances of 2.7% to 3% between the southern and northern populations of mountain brushtails further support their species status. Genetic data was collected last year when the scientists were investigating biological controls for the related common brushtail.

"We were trying to find a parasite or disease in mountain brushtail to help control closely related common brushtails, which are a serious pest in New Zealand," said Lindenmayer.

The article proposes calling the northern species the short-eared possum, reflecting its distinctly smaller ear, although it would retain the scientific name Trichosurus caninus. This is because the species was originally named using specimens from the northern population in the 1830s. The southern species will retain the common name, mountain brushtail possum, but gain a new scientific name, Trichosurus cunninghami.

Both mountain brushtail and short-eared possums require old-growth forests, where they live in the hollows of large dead trees, a habitat type that is increasingly threatened by intensive logging practices in Australia. The revelation that these animals represent two species means that their populations and ranges are effectively half as large as that of the original mountain brushtail.

"Our findings have major conservation implications, as the two new species need conserving more carefully," said Lindenmayer. "Conservation is needed for two species now, not one."

Earthwatch teams working with Lindenmayer continue to collect vital information on the habitat needs of mountain brushtail possums (Trichosurus cunninghami) in Victorian forests. The discovery that this represents a new species with a more limited range makes their work even more critical.

Earthwatch Institute is an international nonprofit organization that supports scientific field research worldwide by offering members of the public unique opportunities to work alongside leading field scientists and researchers. The Institute's mission is to promote sustainable conservation of our natural resources and cultural heritage by creating partnerships between scientists, educators, and the general public. More information on volunteering is found at http://www.earthwatch.org, or call 800-776-0188.

For more information, see "Geographic dimorphism in the Mountain Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus caninus) - the case for a new species." D.B. Lindenmayer, J. Dubach, and K.L. Viggers. Australian Journal of Zoology, volume 50, Issue 4, Pages 369-393, published Nov. 15, 2002


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Earthwatch Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Earthwatch Institute. "New Mammal Species Identified In Australia." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 November 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021125071827.htm>.
Earthwatch Institute. (2002, November 25). New Mammal Species Identified In Australia. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021125071827.htm
Earthwatch Institute. "New Mammal Species Identified In Australia." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021125071827.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Research on Bats Could Help Develop Drugs Against Ebola

Research on Bats Could Help Develop Drugs Against Ebola

AFP (Nov. 28, 2014) In Africa's only biosafety level 4 laboratory, scientists have been carrying out experiments on bats to understand how virus like Ebola are being transmitted, and how some of them resist to it. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 27, 2014) A British palaeontologist has discovered a new species of dinosaur while studying fossils in a Canadian museum. Pentaceratops aquilonius was related to Triceratops and lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, around 75 million years ago. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tryptophan Isn't Making You Sleepy On Thanksgiving

Tryptophan Isn't Making You Sleepy On Thanksgiving

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) Tryptophan, a chemical found naturally in turkey meat, gets blamed for sleepiness after Thanksgiving meals. But science points to other culprits. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins