Dr. Robert P. Anderson, Associate Professor of Biology at The City College of New York, and Ph.D. student Elicer E. Gutirrez have reported the existence of a new species of spiny pocket mouse, from Venezuela, Heteromys catopterius.
The name derives from the Greek katoptrios, which means a "height that commands a view." It was chosen for the new species in reference to its presence on four wet, mountainous forest regions of the rugged and steep-sided Cordillera de la Costa along the country's northern coast.
"Most people are surprised to learn that new species of mammals are still being discovered," Professor Anderson said. "Sometimes they are discovered based on genetic work, but this is a case where anatomical studies made it clear a species existed that had never been recognized by biologists before."
Several features differentiate the Overlook Spiny Pocket Mouse from the more common Heteromys anomalus, known as the Caribbean Spiny Pocket Mouse. H. catopterius has darker fur and lacks the distinctly rounded ears of H. anomalus. In addition, its skull is wider and less elongated. The Overlook Spiny Pocket Mouse is found in elevations ranging from 350 to 2,450 meters above sea level, although mostly above 700 meters. In contrast, H. anomalus resides mostly in lowlands and lower elevations of the mountains of the region.
The findings were published in the "Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History," in a Festschrift, a special volume in honor of Dr. Guy G. Musser, a curator at the museum who retired recently. The research was funded through a National Science Foundation grant.
In identifying a distinct species, researchers must look for data that indicate discrete morphologies, Professor Anderson explained. Further, they assess whether there is evidence for integration among the species.
"When you see gradual changes between locations, that is a sign that you do n
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City College of New York