Scientists have discovered a new mammal in a remote desert in Namibia — and its name is Macroscelidea micus. One of 17 elephant shrew species, the newly discovered mammal weighs up to an ounce and measures about 7.5 inches from snout to tail, Reuters reports. And, although it’s smaller than other elephant shrews, Macroscelides micus has a lot to offer by way of its genetics because, as it turns out, it’s actually more closely related to elephants, and other large mammals, than its closest relatives are.
"Genetically, Macroscelides micus is very different from other members of the genus and it's exciting to think that there are still areas of the world where even the mammal fauna is unknown and waiting to be explored," said Jack Dumbacher, a biologist and one of the authors of the study published yesterday in the Journal Of Mammalogy, in a statement.
it's not a rodent
Because of its size and shape, this rust-colored creature resembles a rat. But it really shouldn’t be referred to as a such, given that elephant shrews — which are different from true shrews — aren’t rodents. "Think about crossing a miniature antelope and an anteater," Rathbun told The Independent, when referring to the way it moves around, and hunts insects. It also happens to be monogamous — which is unusual, the researchers say — and mainly gives birth to twins or triplets. But for now, researchers aren't sure why it's more closely related to elephants than other elephant shrews are. "They are actually closer related to elephants than they are to mice," Rathburn told CBS5.
According to the researcher, there are only about a dozen new mammal discoveries every year. One of the biggest new findings occurred last year when scientists described a new carnivorous mammal — a feat that hadn't been achieved in three decades. But the elephant shrew wasn't this week's only new mammal, as The Guardian reported yesterday that researchers found a new species of wallaby in Papua New Guinea. When asked how it feels to make such a discovery, Deakin University ecologist Euan Ritchie explained it well. "The feeling is better than Christmas," he told The Guardian. "To go somewhere no one has gone before in order to describe new animals is pretty fantastic."