New rat discovered in Indonesia

An international team of zoologists discovered a new genus of rat on Halmahera island, North Maluku.

A unique set of characteristics - a prominent tuft of spiny hair on its back, a white tip on its tail and three pairs of teats - were found on the new genus of mammal, which was discovered in Wallacea, a biogeographical region named after British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace.

"The team was surprised to find the new endemic rodent close to Boki Mekot, a mountainous area under severe ecological threat due to mining and deforestation. The species is only known in this area, and is named Halmaheramys bokimekot," a report recently published on the University of Copenhagen's official website said.

The team was led by the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense in Indonesia and the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen.

Project leader Pierre-Henri Fabre from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate stated that the new rodent highlighted the large amount of unknown biodiversity in the Wallacean biogeographical region and the importance of its conservation.

"Zoologists must continue to explore this area in order to discover and describe new species in this highly diverse, but also threatened region," said Fabre.

The new rat, whose unique set of features has never been reported before in the Moluccas, reveals a rare migration event. "The Halmaheramys discovery supports Wallace's idea of an important faunal breakup in this region," said Fabre.

He said most of the species on Halmahera were of eastern origin.

"Our genetic analysis revealed a western origin of this new genus. That reflects the unique transition zone found in the Indo-Pacific, and warrants much greater scientific investigation," Fabre said.