Long-legged ‘stilt mice’ wade into streams to hunt aquatic insects using their whiskers — ScienceDaily

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Ninety-three years ago, a scientist trapped a mouse in a stream in Ethiopia. Of all the mice, rats, and gerbils in Africa, it stood out as the one most adapted for living in water, with water-resistant fur and long, broad feet. That specimen, housed at Chicago’s Field Museum, is the only one of its genus ever collected, and scientists think it may now be extinct. But in a new study in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, researchers have verified this semi-aquatic mouse’s closest cousins, including two species new to science.

“These two groups of mice have been confused with one another for a century,” says Julian Kerbis Peterhans, one of the paper’s authors and a researcher at the Field Museum who’s studied these rodents for over 30 years. “They’ve been so elusive for so long, they’re some of the rarest animals in the world, so it’s exciting to finally figure out their family tree.”

“It’s underappreciated how little is known about the biodiversity of small mammals, especially in tropical parts of the world. We’re not discovering a whole lot of new lions, tigers, and bears, but there’s an incredible potential for discovery of new species of small mammals because they’re tough to find,” says Tom Giarla, the paper’s lead author and an assistant professor of biology at Siena College in New York. “And they’re sort of underappreciated animals — they’re really cool when you start to learn about their ecology. These are semi-aquatic mice, so they’re not just your average, everyday rodents.”

There are two main kinds of mice that the researchers focused on: Nilopegamys and Colomys. Nilopegamys (meaning “mouse from the source of the Nile”) is the genus that’s only known from one specimen collected in 1927; the genus Colomys is a little easier to