An international research group, led by Professor Masaharu Motokawa and Researcher Shinya Okabe of the Kyoto University Museum and Researcher Hai Tuan Bui and students Linh Tu Hoang Le and Ngan Thi Nguyen of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, has discovered a new shrew mole species of the genus Uropsilus in Vietnam. It was discovered on Mount Fansipan, the highest mountain in Vietnam, and is described as a new species, Uropsilus fansipanensis, owing to its difference in morphological characteristics and genetically differentiation from previously known related species in China. It is the ninth member of the subfamily of shrew moles in the world and was first found in Vietnam. The finding has been published online in Zootaxa.
Unlike other moles, Uropsilus species run around on the ground surface and under deciduous leaves. Eight species of the genus are known to be distributed in the mountainous regions of China and Myanmar.
The Kyoto University Museum and the Vietnam Institute of Science and Technology conducted a joint survey in 2022 and succeeded in capturing two individuals of Uropsilus for the first time at an altitude of approximately 2,900 meters on Mount Fansipan. Okabe reminisced, "The moment I caught the individuals in Vietnam, my mind went blank with joy. I felt like my week without a bath had paid off."
The research group conducted a detailed study of the morphological characteristics and mitochondrial and nuclear gene sequences of the two individuals and compared them with those of previously known species in China and Myanmar, on the basis of a literature review and examination of type specimens held at the British Museum (Natural History). As a result, it was determined to be a new species.
The morphological characteristics that clearly distinguish this new species from the known species include its reddish-brown dorsal body hair, gray ventral body hair, dark gray elongated tail with a sparse white spot at the base, orbital process that projects posteriorly, large lacrimal pit, and approximately similar sized first and third molars in the lower jaw. Additionally, it has been genetically differentiated from the known species of Uropsilus.
Although no new species of Uropsilus (which are found exclusively in mountainous areas) had been discovered in nearly 100 years, new species in China were successively reported in 2013 and 2021, drawing attention to the species diversity. The discovery of Uropsilus fansipanensis demonstrates the rich biodiversity of Vietnam's mountainous areas and suggests the presence of more new and unidentified species.
Motokawa stated, "The genus Uropsilus, which is found only in mountainous areas at high altitudes, was thought to be endemic to Southwest China and Myanmar. Therefore, its discovery in the highest peak in Vietnam is an important biogeographical find, not only for the genus Uropsilus. We would like to continue our joint research with Vietnam to conduct further fieldwork focusing on the elevation range and to clarify the actual status of species diversity."
Title: A new shrew mole species of the genus Uropsilus (Eulipotyphla: Talpidae) from northwestern Vietnam
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