(22.08.2012) A new species of rat with fangs has been discovered in a remote rainforest.
The vampire rat that inhabits remote Indonesian island Sulawesi has no teeth except a pair of incisors. It eats earthworms. Only.
Called paucidentomys vermidax (which means "few-toothed mouse devourer of worms) it has a rat's tail, a long, thin shew-like nose and no chewing molars. Something scientists insist is an evolutionary step.
"There are more than 2,200 rodent species in the world and until this discovery all had molars in the back of their mouth and incisors at the front," said Dr Kevin Rowe, from Museum Victoria in Australia, a member of the discovery team.
"This is an example of how species, when faced with a new ecological opportunity, in this case an abundance of earthworms, can evolve the loss of traits that were wildly successful in previous circumstances."
Anang Achmadi, from Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense in Indonesia, said: "The specialised incisors of rodents give them the distinct ability to gnaw - a defining characteristic of rodents worldwide.
"In having lost all teeth except a pair of unusually shaped incisors that are incapable of gnawing, this new rat is unique among rodents."
Dr Rowe said the find was a reminder that wild habitats can still harbour undiscovered species.
"In the mountains of Sulawesi, where we discovered paucidentomys, healthy forests still nurture rare and remarkable species, however, they are isolated patches imperilled by expanding logging, mining, plantations and other human activities."
Via: Mail / Images: PA