Luzon has world’s greatest concentration of unique mammals–study
A 15-year research project conducted by American and Filipino scientists resulted in the discovery of 28 unique species of mammals in Luzon.
The research project also said that Luzon has the “greatest concentration” of unique mammals in the world.
The results of the study showed that out of the 56 species of non-flying mammals known to live on the island, 52 live nowhere else in the planet.
The paper was recently published in the Frontiers of Biogeography journal.
“We started our study on Luzon in 2000 because we knew at the time that most of the native mammal species on the island were unique to the island, and we wanted to understand why that is the case. We did not expect that we would double the number already known,” Lawrence Heaney, the project’s leader, said in a statement.
Other co-authors include Danilo Balete of The Field Museum, Mariano Roy Duya and Melizar Duya of the University of the Philippines, Sharon Jansa of the University of Minnesota, Eric Rickart of the Natural History Museum of Utah and Scott Steppan of the Florida State University.
The study authors said that the endemic mammals thrived in the country because Luzon has never been connected to any continental island. As such, the few creatures that arrived from mainland Asia were allowed “to evolve and diversify greatly.”
They also noted that with Luzon being covered in mountains, the mountaintops form what scientists call “sky islands” or “little pockets of distinctive habitat” that the animals can adapt to.
“The animals are isolated high on the scattered mountains, so they inevitably diverge. Given enough time, you begin to see huge biodiversity,” explained Heaney. “In the process of trying to understand how that happens, we doubled the number of known species on Luzon.”
Among the 28 new species discovered by the team are four species of tiny tree-mice with whiskers “so long they reach nearly to their ankles,” and five species of mice that “look like shrews and feed primarily on earthworms.” These animals live in tropical cloud forests in the mountains.
Fifty-seven species of bats are also being supported in Luzon, the study said.
Danny Balete, a team member who is based in the Philippines, said that protecting the unique species is a challenge—as the animals are faced with threats of heavy deforestation, habitat-loss, and overhunting.
“Protecting all of these species from extinction is going to be a big challenge. The good news is that when the native forest is allowed to regenerate, the native mammals move back in, and the pest rats get kicked out,” Balete said. JE/rga