New primate species discovered in Madagascar

Number of known mouse lemur species increases to 16

The microcebus macarthurii lives in eastern Madagascar in the dense, evergreen mountain rainforests of the Makira region. © Dr. Blanchard Randrianambinina
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Researchers discovered a previously unknown species of primate in eastern Madagascar in the dense, evergreen mountain rainforests of the Makira region. The small nocturnal mouse lemur species has been christened Microcebus macarthurii, MacArthur's mouse lemur.

The new species was detected during a survey of the lemur fauna in the region. The scientists suspect that the range of MacArthur's mouse lemur is very small, with several large rivers and a mountain range intersecting the region - these natural barriers could limit its spread.

The researchers led by Ute Radespiel from the Institute of Zoology of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo) report together with Malagasy scientists and students of the organization GERP (Groupe d'√Čtude et de Recherche sur les Primates de Madagascar) in the online edition of the journal " American Journal of Primatology "on their findings.

Human endangered maki domicile

After their discovery, the scientists took small tissue samples from the animals, which were genetically analyzed by Radespiel's team in the laboratory of the Institute of Zoology of TiHo and compared with the gene sequences of the 15 already known mouse lemurs.

The new species differs not only genetically but also in their body dimensions from the sister species suspected to date in this region, the Mittermeier's Mausmaki. According to these new findings, the Makira region is one of the most species-rich areas of Madagascar in terms of its lemur fauna. display

"Unfortunately, as in many other regions of Madagascar, there is a grave threat to the remaining natural areas due to human intervention, such as deforestation, slash and burn, and the mining of natural resources. Nature conservation activities are urgently needed to enable these animals to survive in the long term, "says Radespiel.

(idw - University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, 15.07.2008 - DLO)