Five new species of soft-furred hedgehog found in Southeast Asia | World news


Five new species of hedgehog have been discovered by researchers in Southeast Asia.

They are all types of invertebrate soft-furred hedgehogs that are furry rather than spiky.

Two of the species found by researchers are completely new, and the other three are subspecies that have been upgraded to species level.

Image: David Awcock / SWNS
Image:
H. maxi is found in Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. Image: David Awcock/SWNS

The team from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History used DNA to identify different genetic lineages, which it later confirmed as distinct species by comparing them to museum specimens.

One of the brand new species, Hylomys vorax, is found in a tropical rainforest on the slopes of Mount Leuser in northern Sumatra.

They are about 12 cm (4.7 in) long, have dark brown fur, very narrow snouts and completely black tails.

The H. macarong hedgehog, the other completely new species, also has dark brown fur – but is larger than the Hylomys vorax hedgehog, about 14 cm (5.5 in) in length.

They are found in tropical rainforests in the south Vietnam and was named after the Vietnamese word for vampire (Ma cà rồng) because the males of the species have long fang-like incisors.

The research team said more studies would be needed to decipher what purpose the fangs serve.

Lead author Dr. Arlo Hinckley said the findings “highlight that even in well-studied animal groups such as mammals, there are still discoveries waiting to be made”.

The other three new species – which were previously considered to be subspecies of Hylomys suillus but have now been elevated to species in their own right – are named H. dorsalis, H. maxi and H. peguensis.

The H. dorsalis hedgehog is found in the mountains of northern Borneo, while the H. maxi hedgehog is found in the mountains of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula.

Both are about 14 cm long, but H. dorsalis has a conspicuous dark stroke that begins on their heads and reaches the middle of their bodies.

The H. peguensis species is smaller, typically measuring around 13cm (5in) in length and has slightly more yellow fur than the other species.

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It is found in several countries in Southeast Asia, especially Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.

Each of the five species is active during the day and night and, like all other species of hedgehog, is omnivorous – probably eating a mixture of insects and other invertebrates, as well as some fruits as and when they can.

Dr. Hinckley said: “Based on field observations and the lifestyle of their close relatives, these hedgehogs likely breed in burrows and take cover while foraging among tree roots, fallen logs, rocks, grassy areas, undergrowth and leaf litter.

“But because they are so understudied, we are limited to speculating about the details of their natural history.”


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