Ecuador, home to a rich tapestry of biodiversity, has unveiled a new entrant: the Neacomys marci. This recently identified spiny mouse species, previously mistaken for another of its kind, bears the length equivalent to a tennis ball.
With distinctive features such as a pale suede underbelly, a long tail, and a white throat, it stands as the 24th recognized species in its genus, Neacomys.
The last five years have been revolutionary for the Neacomys genus with the discovery of 14 new species, including Neacomys marci.
Found in the Chocó biogeographic region, one of South America’s significant biodiversity hotspots, this region is not only expansive, stretching along the Pacific coasts of Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador, but it’s also notably under-researched.
This particular part of northwestern Ecuador’s rainforests boasts immense biodiversity and endemism, credit being owed to the confluence of the Chocó and the Andes Mountains.
The journey to recognizing Neacomys marci didn’t happen in isolation. Collaborative efforts among researchers Nicolás Tinoco of Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Claudia Koch from Germany’s Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change, Javier E. Colmenares-Pinzón of Universidad Industrial de Santander in Colombia, and Jorge Brito from Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad in Quito, Ecuador were integral to this revelation.
Their in-depth description and findings on this rodent have been published in the open-access journal, Zookeys.
As a genus, Neacomys has made its presence known across eastern Panama and the northern regions of South America. Studies since 2017 have invigorated the understanding of this genus, introducing several new species.
However, given the expansive uncharted terrains of South America and nearby Panama, many believe that the genus’s true diversity might still be lurking in the shadows, waiting for further discovery.
Modern scientific approaches, including molecular analysis, have been paramount in identifying animal groups with more precision. Additionally, extensive reviews of museum collections and augmented field collection endeavors have been pivotal in comprehending not just Neacomys marci but its peer species as well.
The naming of this new species pays tribute to Marc Hoogeslag from Amsterdam, Netherlands. As a co-founder and leader of the International Union for Conservation of Nature – Netherlands Land Acquisition Fund, Hoogeslag has been instrumental in aiding local groups globally in crafting new ecological reserves and championing the cause of endangered species conservation.
The discovery of Neacomys marci in the EcoMinga Foundation’s Manduriacu Reserve stands as testament to the impact of Hoogeslag’s initiatives, with the reserve being one of the many beneficiaries of his program.
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