A long-nosed shrew mouse discovered in Northern Mindanao by the late Filipino zoologist and biologist Danny Balete was found to be a whole new genus rather than just a new species cascaded from a distant relative of mice from Luzon, and in his honor, was named “Balete’s mouse.”
In 2007 and 2010, Balete was studying mammals in Mount Kampalili in Mindanao to research how these mammals live alongside one of the largest and critically endangered Philippine eagles when he found a dark brown mouse with small eyes and long, tapering nose like a shrew, a startling discovery at the time as it looked more like mice typically found in Luzon.
Three specimens of the new mouse were shipped to the Field Museum for further study, and it confirmed Balete’s initial findings – that the mouse was not just a new species of a distant relative of the mice in Luzon, but a whole new genus.
“That DNA study demonstrated that the new mouse was not related to the species up in the northern Philippines, but instead was related to species from Mindanao,” Dakota Rowsey, a vertebrate collections manager at Arizona State University and a research associate at the Field Museum, said.
“It appears to be a remarkable case of what biologists call convergence – distantly related species that have independently evolved to resemble each other in ways that allow them to use habitats and resources in similar ways,” Rowsey added.
Larry Heaney, curator of Mammals at Chicago’s Field Museum and a senior author of the paper about the newly-discovered mouse in the Journal of Mammalogy, said that new species of mammals are being discovered globally with 50 to 100 new species per year.
“Finding a brand-new genus, previously unknown to science genus like this one, that only happens at most a couple of times per year,” he said. “In our 40 years of intensive study of Philippine mammals, this is one of nearly 50 new species, but just the fourth new genus we discovered.”
Balete’s colleague at the University of the Philippines, Asst. Prof. Mariano Roy Duya, said that they’re naming it after the late biologist for his discovery of the mouse, and so many other creatures as well.
“As we began picking up the pieces after his death, it became obvious to us that we had to name this new mouse after him, he deserves this,” Duya said.
Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates.
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