7 new species of forest mice found on Luzon
MANILA, Philippines—A team of Filipino and American biologists has discovered seven new species of forest mice in the mountains of Luzon, a development that highlights the country’s rich biodiversity according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
DENR announced Wednesday that the team found the previously unknown species of mice in the highlands of Luzon: two were endemic to Mt. Tapulao in Zambales; another two lived in the forests of Mt. Banahaw in Quezon; two lived in the Mingan Mountains in Aurora; and one can be found in the Sierra Madre Mountain range in northeastern Luzon.
“It is extraordinary that so many new species of mammals remain to be discovered in the Philippines,” said Danilo Balete, field team leader. “In the past 10 years, we’ve published formal descriptions of ten other species, while other biologists have described five more.”
“And we are nowhere close to the end of our discoveries. The Philippines may have the greatest concentration of unique species of animals of any country in the world,” Balete added.
All the mice belong to the genus Apomys and can be found only “in a small part of Luzon,” the DENR said in a statement.
The mice were named mostly after their habitats: Apomys Aurorae, Apomys Banahao, Apomys Brownorum, Apomys Magnus, Apomys Minganensis, Apomys Sierrae and Apomys Zambalensis.
An account of the discovery, authored by nine biologists from the University of the Philippines, the Philippine National Museum, Conservation International- Philippines, the Utah Museum of Natural History and the Florida State University, was first published in last month’s issue of the Fieldiana, the journal of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.
Describing the species in the Fieldiana, project leader Lawrence Heaney said the mammals were “wonderful little mice that live in forested regions high in the mountain… often abundant, they actively avoid humans and rarely cause any harm. They prefer to eat earthworms and seeds on the forest floor.”
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the discovery underscored the country’s richness in endemic species and came as a timely development as the United Nations and the national government have declared the years 2011 to 2020 as a “Decade on Biodiversity.”
“The international community has recognized that our country has among the highest rates of discovery in the world. Filipinos should be aware of such discoveries, to show a collective pride and give a more positive meaning to the expression, ‘only in the Philippines,’” Paje added in a statement.
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