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Peruvian rodent rediscovered after 400 years

Discussion in 'Wildlife & Nature Conservation' started by Surroundx, 27 Sep 2014.

  1. Surroundx

    Surroundx Well-Known Member

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    Below one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, scientists have made a remarkable discovery: a living cat-sized mammal that, until now, was only known from fossils.

    The Machu Picchu arboreal chinchilla rat (Cuscomys oblativa) was first described from two enigmatic skulls discovered in Incan pottery sculpted 400 years ago. Dug up by Hiram Bingham in 1912, the skulls were believed to belong to a species that went extinct even before Francisco Pizarro showed up in Peru with his motley army. Yet, all that changed in 2009 when a park ranger, Roberto Quispe, found what was believed to be a living Machu Picchu arboreal chinchilla rat near the original archaeological site.


    Source: In the shadows of Machu Picchu, scientists find 'extinct' cat-sized mammal
     
  2. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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    Intresting re-discovery and nice story, thanks for sharing Surroundx !
     
  3. temp

    temp Well-Known Member

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    Interesting and a remarkable rediscovery, but a bit odd why it suddenly is picked up by an English languaged site. It was already reported in mainstream Peruvian press in 2009 when the first photo was taken. Sure it was in Spanish, but that isn't exactly a marginal language that would inhibit it from being spread to English.
     
  4. Surroundx

    Surroundx Well-Known Member

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    The story was covered in the English press, but the identification was tentative as the animal was released without realising its significance. Only the photo suggested that it could be C. oblativa. But now several specimens have been examined to be more sure of the identity of the taxon, although I'm not sure what diagnostic characters were used to make a positive ID as the only previous material is two skulls I believe.
     
  5. temp

    temp Well-Known Member

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    The identification of the 2009 was confirmed. Keep in mind that this specimen, which had been hurt, was kept in captivity for 3 days before being released, giving them plenty of time to do a thorough check. They also took c. 40 photos.

    When Louise Emmons described the closely related C. ashaninka in 1999, she also mentioned that C. oblativus almost certainly was still alive (plenty of pristine habitat remains in the region) despite not having been seen alive by any modern scientist. Consequently, pretty much all biologists in the Machu Picchu reserve had been looking for this large rodent. This included Julio Ochoa, the biologist the ranger informed about the discovery first. It should perhaps also be said that the actual discovery was made by a carrier (the locals that help tourists along the Inca Trail by carrying the tents, etc), who informed the ranger, who then informed the biologist. The two Cuscomys species differ distinctly in cranium shape and teeth. Not everything can be judged accurately from a living specimen, but some things, e.g. teeth, can still be used. Good photos and measurements were already available in Emmons 1999 paper. As it turns out, the two are quite similar in color.

    I was in Peru shortly after the discovery and it was covered in several local media. If I remember right, the most comprehensive article was in El Comercio.
     
  6. Surroundx

    Surroundx Well-Known Member

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    For those who are interested her paper can be found online here:

    Emmons, Louise H. (1999). A new genus and species of abrocomid rodent from Peru (Rodentia: Abrocomidae). American Museum Novitates 3279: 1-14.
     
  7. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    It looks very much like a Caviomorph analogue to the Myomorph cloud-rats of southeastern Asia, in both physical morphology and colouration.