Scientists rediscover dwarf cloud rat after 112 years
Washington, May 2 : A greater dwarf cloud rat, which was last seen 112 years ago, has been rediscovered by a team of Filipino and American scientists.
The appearance of the rat called Carpomys melanurus attains significance because scientists had started to believe that it had become extinct.
It has dense, soft reddish-brown fur, a black mask around large dark eyes, small rounded ears, a broad and blunt snout, and a long tail covered with dark hair.
An adult weighs about 185 grams, according to the research team.
"This beautiful little animal was seen by biologists only once previously by a British researcher in 1896 who was given several specimens by local people, so he knew almost nothing about the ecology of the species," said Lawrence Heaney, Curator of Mammals at the Field Museum and Project Leader.
"Since then, the species has been a mystery, in part because there is virtually no forest left on Mt. Data, where it was first found," he added.
Project co-Leader Danilo Balete, a research associate at the Philippine National Museum, captured the dwarf cloud rat during the first comprehensive survey of the small mammals of Mt. Pulag National Park.
The researcher revealed that the rat was in the canopy of a large tree, on a large horizontal branch covered by a thick layer of moss, orchids, and ferns, about 5 meters above ground.
"We had suspected from its broad, hand-like hind feet that it lived up in big trees, but this is the first evidence to confirm that," the researcher said.
William Stanley, Collections Manager of Mammals at The Field Museum, said that given that it the dwarf cloud rat has been seen in its natural habitat for the first time, the data collected from this specimen "will significantly augment our understanding of how these rodents evolved, what makes them tick, and how we can keep them around.
He added: "Also, finding this animal again gives us hope for the conservation of one of the most diverse and threatened mammal faunas of the world."
The researchers believe that the dwarf cloud rat perhaps lives only high in the big canopy trees in mature mossy forest, at elevations from about 2,200 to 2,700 meters, high in the mountains of the Central Cordillera.
"Now that we know where to look for them, it will be possible to learn more," Heaney said.