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Posts Tagged ‘Cuc Phuong ferret-badger’

From Mongabay.com:

A new species of omnivorous mammal has been found in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam. A part of the weasel family, the new species is known as a ferret-badger, a strange subfamily of mammals that have been little-studied by researchers. Smaller than proper badgers, ferret-badgers have elongated faces and long bushy tails.

Described in Der Zoologische Garten, researchers named the new species after its place-of-origin: the Cuc Phuong ferret-badger (Melogale cucphuogensis). The new mammal was first discovered in 2005 after rangers found it wounded from a snare. A vet with the Endangered Primate Rescue Center amputated the animal’s leg to save it, but unfortunately the wild animal accidently strangled-itself in a cage wire. Its body was not preserved. Then in 2006, a recently dead individual was discovered, allowing researchers to describe it. The new species is the fifth ferret badger known and inhabits an area also home to two others: the Chinese ferret-badger (Melogale moschata) and the Burmese ferret-badger (Melogale personata).

“Hardly any information on their biology and ecology is available,” the authors write. “There is even less information available about their habitat requirements or ecological niches, and therefore coexistence and/or competition of these species.”

The IUCN Red List has only been able to evaluate the Chinese ferret-badger (listed as Least Concern), while the others are considered Data Deficient. The Chinese ferret-badger has been the most researched. It is nocturnal and spends much of its time underground. It feeds on a wide-range of prey including earthworms, insects, molluscs, frogs, carrion, eggs, and even fruit.

While the discovery of new species is not uncommon—researchers documented over 18,225 new species in 2008 alone—finding new mammals is rare. In 2008, only 41 new species discovered were mammals (less than half a percent). Finding a new non-rodent mammal is even more astounding: a third of the new mammals recorded were rodents in 2008.

Ferret-badgers are quite poorly studied.

They are native to Asia, and the Chinese species, which is the most common and widespread, looks like a bizarre hybrid between a ferret and a badger.

It does not surprise me that the Cuc Phuong ferret-badger was discovered in a poacher’s snare.

In this part of the world, the illegal wildlife trade is rampant.  The Chinese market for various animals continues to grow, and there is very little that the Southeast Asian governments are doing to control this trade. Considering all the other problems these countries face, wildlife smuggling isn’t a top priority.

That’s not to say they aren’t doing anything, but they are doing less than countries like the United States or Australia would do.

My guess is most of the newly documented species in the order Carnivora are going be mustelids, mongooses, procyonids. skunks. and civets.  One can find species of these animals that are small enough to remain hidden for centuries and that may have only a very narrow regional distribution.

You won’t likely find another species of lion or wolf, simply because the behavior and natural history of these animals doesn’t lend itself toward speciation.

Lions and wolves are much more mobile than something like a ferret badger.  As a result, they have been quite widespread, and virtually none of the populations have been isolated. Young male lions disperse from their natal prides upon reaching sexual maturity, and young wolves normally leave their natal packs by the time they are two years old. Both lions and wolves that leave their family groups and travel great distances from their parents. This means that the whole population is in a constant state of gene flow. Without any mechanism to isolate populations, this continuous gene flow prevents any one regional population from becoming distinct enough enough to become its own species.

These ferret-badgers evolved in Asia. The Chinese species lives in a variety of habitats, but the others live in tropical forests. Tropical forests often provide different niches for different populations of related organisms, and these animals fill these niches. The gene flow stops, and they become separate species.

Further, ferret-badgers may have experienced periods of total isolation from each other. With no gene flow between the populations, they have lost their ability to reproduce with each other, and when they suddenly wind up living in the same habitat, they are separate species that have lost chemical interfertility.

Little animals that can’t disperse over vast distances, and this increases the likelihood that these animals have unique subpopulations that have evolved into distinct species.

So if you’re looking for new species of Carnivoran, think small.

***

Yes. I’m aware that the Malagasy carnivorans have their own family now, as does the African palm civet. The red panda has its own family, too.

But for me to write all of those names out is a pain, because I then have to explain why they have their own families. So bear with me.

Oh, yeah, in case you hadn’t heard, skunks are in their own family. They aren’t mustelids anymore. The skunks of the Americas now share a family with the so-called stink badgers of Indonesia and the Philippines.  This family is now called Mephitidae.

 

 

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