Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Four new species of tuco-tucos identified from Bolivia

Date:
July 18, 2014
Source:
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Summary:
Four new species of Ctenomys, a genus of gopher-like mammals found throughout much of South America, have been identified by researchers. The burrowing rodents are commonly called tuco-tucos. The burrowing rodents range from 7 to 12 inches long and weigh less than a pound. They demonstrate the broad range of biological diversity in the lowlands and central valleys of Bolivia, where all four new species were found, a researcher notes.

Ctenomys lewisi is a previously known species of tuco-tuco that is similar in appearance to four new species.
Credit: Scott Gardner/University of Nebraska-Lincoln

A research team led by Scott Gardner of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has identified four new species of Ctenomys, a genus of gopher-like mammal found throughout much of South America.

Commonly called tuco-tucos, the burrowing rodents range from 7 to 12 inches long and weigh less than a pound. They demonstrate the broad range of biological diversity in the lowlands and central valleys of Bolivia, where all four new species were found, Gardner said.

It is very rare to identify a new species of mammal, said Gardner, director of the H.W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology and a curator for the University of Nebraska State Museum.

"In the current environment of human-caused environmental disturbance and degradation, the discovery of four previously unknown species that are relatively large in size is phenomenal," he said.

Three of the newly identified animals -- Ctenomys erikacuellarae or Erika's tuco-tuco; Ctenomys andersoni, or Anderson's cujuchi; and Ctenomys lessai, or Lessa's tuco-tuco -- were found in an area of high ridges that create deep river valleys in central Bolivia. Though the animals share common evolutionary forebears, the ridges, created by the same fierce geological pressures that thrust up the Andes, establish a geographical isolation that fostered the development of distinct species in different valleys.

The fourth new species, Ctenomys yatesi, or Yates' tuco-tuco, was found in the lowlands of eastern Bolivia. Though scientists earlier included it as part of previously identified Ctenomy species, Gardner's research team concluded it was distinctly different from any other species.

"The area from which these mammals were collected is still relatively unknown in a biological sense, even though this is the eastern foothills of the Andes, with among the highest level of biodiversity anywhere," Gardner said, adding that he expects more new species of mammals will eventually be found in the area.

As many as 65 tuco-tuco species are known to exist throughout South America. With the four new species, there have been a dozen found in Bolivia alone.

The new tuco-tuco species were described in a research paper published earlier this month in a special publication of the Museum of Texas Tech University (No. 62, June 17).

Gardner collaborated on the project with curators at the Museum of Southwestern Biology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and with the American Museum of Natural History in New York. His co-authors were Jorge Salazar-Bravo of Texas Tech's Department of Biological Sciences and Joseph A. Cook of the University of New Mexico.

Identification of the new species was the result of National Science Foundation-funded work Gardner began as a graduate student in the 1980s. He was interested in learning more about the parasites that infested tuco-tucos, but first needed to distinguish the rodent species.

"As we went along, it turned out these species were more unique than we realized and we collected more and more as we moved through different places," Gardner recalled. "It turned out we could actually tell they were different by looking at their chromosomes and their DNA sequences."

Gardner assembled the data and examined a couple hundred specimens collected over three decades.

Each species was named for colleagues, some of whom participated on the project. Ctenomys erikacuellarae was named in honor of Erika Cuellar, a Rolex award-winning conservation biologist from Bolivia who participated in field expeditions as a student in the 1990s. Ctenomys yatesi was named in honor of the late Terry L. Yates, curator of the Mammal Division of the Museum of Southwestern Biology and later a vice president of the University of New Mexico. Ctenomys andersoni was named in honor of Sydney Anderson, expedition leader and curator emeritus of the Department of Mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History. Ctenomys lessai was named in honor of Enrique P. Lessa, an expert in Latin American mammalogy, evolution and the biology of tuco-tucos.

Though some biologists recently have criticized the collection of specimens as potentially jeopardizing fragile populations of rare animals, Gardner said collecting expeditions to biologically unknown areas remain a critical part of understanding life on the planet.

"The No. 1 cause of extinction of organisms is loss of habitat," he said. "Because of large-scale human-caused habitat destruction occurring worldwide, it is essential to create collections of organisms now and use modern methods of systematics and ecology to understand the history of life on earth, while we still can. Time is limited."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The original article was written by Leslie Reed. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "Four new species of tuco-tucos identified from Bolivia." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140718095731.htm>.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln. (2014, July 18). Four new species of tuco-tucos identified from Bolivia. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140718095731.htm
University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "Four new species of tuco-tucos identified from Bolivia." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140718095731.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
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:
from the past week

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