Two New Mammals Discovered In Australia
In some of the rare positive news stories to come out of 2020, Australia has found it is home to two previously unknown species of mammal.
The discovery was made after experts had, for a long period, been led to believe that just one species of the greater glider existed.
Now, after a study published in Nature – as part of their Scientific Reports journal – researchers have found out that there are in fact two further types in existence.
‘Australia’s biodiversity just got a lot richer,’ said Professor Andrew Krockenberger of James Cook University, who is also one of the paper’s authors.’ It’s not every day that new mammals are confirmed, let alone two new mammals,’ he confirmed with glee, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
In case you’re unfamiliar with what a greater glider is, they are a marsupial found exclusively in Australia. A herbivore that feasts almost entirely on eucalyptus leaves and bud, gliders are small possum-sized animals that boast a lemur-like ringtail and are nocturnal.
These nimble creatures can fit into the tightest of holes, allowing them to effectively hide from prey, as well as glide up to 100 metres as they in turn search for food.
Different species are now known to exist in the northern, southern, and central ranges, after distinctions were made. According to their stats, the further north they live, the smaller they get.
The southern type live within the eastern eucalypt forests of Victoria and New South Wales, and, as stated above, the larger of the gliders. This is the one species that wildlife experts are familiar with, meaning the other two are still a bit of a mystery.
The northerners are noted as being far smaller, and inhabit the eucalypt forests between Mackay and Cairns in Queensland.
Even though the stark differences were previously noted, the two are now believed to belong to the same species, despite having contrasting habitual traits.
James Cook University PhD candidate, Denise McGregor, revealed professionals had long speculated on there being more than one species, and that it just hadn’t been confirmed. ‘Now we have proof from the DNA, it changes the whole way we think about them,’ she said.
A once thriving mammal three decades ago, gliders are now considered endangered. Their dwindling numbers are as a result of logging and disruption through urban development. Combine this with the ongoing effects of climate change, the gliders have been displaced and, as a result, began to die out.
The population in Victoria’s Central Highlands has decreased an alarming 80% in the past two decades and, in areas like Jervis Bay, have already become extinct.
Kara Youngentob, an Australian National University ecologist, said it was ‘really exciting to find this biodiversity under our noses, and gliders are such a charismatic animal as well.’
However, she also noted the impending human made problems that endanger the creatures:
But the division of the greater glider into multiple species reduces the previous widespread distribution of the original species, further increasing conservation concern for that animal and highlighting the lack of information about the other greater glider species.
She warns about the planet’s change in temperate and how they need protecting, citing its affect on such wildlife: ‘For the southern species, anything over 20 degrees Celsius at night means it has to use its energy to actively cool itself and high temperatures also put them off their food and stop them eating.’
While they may look cute and the discovery is clearly a good breakthrough, their future depends on the way we, as a species, treat and respect their natural habitats.
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CreditsThe Sydney Morning Herald
The Sydney Morning Herald