Five new species of soft-furred hedgehogs have been identified by scientists in South East Asia.
Several scientific expeditions were dispatched to the creatures' tropical forest habitat in order to investigate the revelation. Additionally, specimens of the mammals that had been in museum collections for decades were reevaluated by the researchers.
This comprehensive biological spot-the-difference study identified two of the museum animals as species that were previously unknown to science. It was determined that three additional species, which had been classified as subtypes of a single species, were sufficiently distinct to be formally recognised as separate species.
Dr. Melissa Hawkins, one of the principal investigators from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (SMNH), stated to sources that the finding demonstrated the "incredible" variety of life that remains uncovered on Earth.
According to Dr. Hawkins, “We perceive ourselves to be well-informed regarding the natural world, however, our knowledge is genuinely limited even in regards to groups such as mammals—especially the minuscule organisms that inhabit inaccessible habitats.”
She stated that the identification of such species might bring awareness to the dire state of rainforest ecosystems.
The creatures are all members of the Hylomys hedgehog family, which is native to South East Asia. Previously, only two species had been identified; this discovery increases the total to seven.
Although they are members of the same family as the more common hedgehog, these diminutive, long-nosed mammals are furry as opposed to spiny.
A similar discovery, according to Dr. Arlo Hinckley, also from SMNH, is "especially significant in South East Asia, where deforestation is at its highest rate worldwide."
This becomes a formidable task when investigating what Dr. Hawkins termed "small brown creatures" that inhabit dense forests.
Although the diminutive mammals appear similar to the uninitiated eye, the research team identified significant variations in their genetic codes and physical characteristics, specifically their heads and canines.
Dr. Hawkins remarked, "Their skulls are fascinating; despite their diminutive size, they have these incredibly sharp canines."
"They would be quite frightening if they were larger animals."
A species of long-fanged organism that the scientists identified in one of the museum's collections was designated Hylomys macarong, a nomenclature derived from the Vietnamese word "vampire."
In addition to their field research, the scientists analysed specimens from fourteen distinct natural history collections located in Asia, Europe, and the United States.
Following several decades of storage in the cabinets of the Smithsonian and Drexel University in Philadelphia, the two recently identified species, Hylomys vorax and Hylomys macarong, were unearthed.
The genetic material collected by the researchers from the three previously classified subspecies was sufficient to establish their biological distinctness.
It would appear that each species of Hylomys lives in a slightly different environment, with some species living in lowland woods and others living at higher elevations.
The display of Picasso or the finding of an archaeological site in a city are two examples that Dr. Hinckley related to the discovery of animals that are unique to a certain region of tropical forest and have evolved over the course of millions of years.