Discovery of Spiny Rat in Indonesia

Scientists have discovered a new rat genus in an Indonesian island that gave birth to the theory of evolution. 

A prominent tuft of spiny hair on the back, a white tail tip and three pairs of teats represent the unique set of characteristics describing the new genus of rat found in the Moluccan province of Indonesia. 

This region had a profound influence on the British Naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace who independently developed the theory of evolution alongside Charles Darwin. 

An international team of zoologists led by the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense in Indonesia and the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen, was surprised to find the new endemic rodent close to the locality of Boki Mekot, a mountainous area under severe ecological threat due to mining and deforestation. 

The species is only known in this locality and is named Halmaheramys bokimekot. 

"This new rodent highlights the large amount of unknown biodiversity in this Wallacean region and the importance of its conservation," Project leader Pierre-Henri Fabre from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate said. 

"It constitutes a valuable addition to our knowledge of the Wallacean biodiversity and much remains to be learned about mammalian biodiversity across this region," said Fabre. 

Halmaheramys bokimekot is a terrestrial spiny rat of medium body size with brownish grey fur on its back and a greyish white belly. 

Together with its other characteristics it represents a unique set of features that has never been reported before in the Moluccas. 

It is clear that the region had a profound influence of Wallace's thinking as it was from the Moluccan province of Indonesia that Wallace wrote his famous letter about natural selection and evolutionary theory to Charles Darwin. The two naturalists both published their findings in 1858. 

The unique nature of the plants and animals found within the region and the large floral and faunal differences to the neighbouring region of Australia, later inspired Wallace to define a zoo-geographical boundary dividing the Indonesian archipelago into two distinct parts: a western portion in which the animals are largely of Asian origin and an eastern portion where the fauna reflect Australasia. This is known as the Wallace line. 

The study was published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean society.

Source: Business Strand

Author: Saumyadip Sarkar (Science Communicator)