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A new mammal species has been discovered in Cyprus!
2006-10-19 11:35:19

London, Oct 13 - A new mammal species, thought to be the first discovered in Europe for more than a century, has been identified by a scientist based at the University of Durham, according to “The Times”. The grey mouse, found in Cyprus by Thomas Cucchi, has been confirmed as an entirely new species by genetic tests, overturning the widespread assumption that Europe had no mammals left to be discovered.

Dr Cucchi, who is French, was working in Cyprus studying mouse teeth from the Stone Age period and comparing them with those of four modern mouse species when he came across a variety that seemed to differ from all known European mice.

The species, named Mus cypriacus, or the Cypriot mouse, has a larger head, ears, eyes and teeth than previously known examples. It is described in the journal Zootaxa in an article entitled “A new epidemic species of the subgenus Mus (Rodentia, Mammalia) on the Island of Cyprus”.

The find is described as remarkable because new mammal species are seldom reported anywhere in the world and most recent discoveries have emerged from regions such as New Guinea that are not densely populated and have been little studied by scientists.

“New mammal species are mainly discovered in hotspots of biodiversity like South East Asia and it was generally believed that every species of mammal in Europe had been identified,” Dr Cucchi said. “This is why the discovery of a new species of mouse on Cyprus was so unexpected and exciting.”

Dr Cucchi’s work has shown that the Cypriot mouse appears to predate the arrival of human beings on the island, an unusual occurrence because most other mammals endemic to Mediterranean islands died out when challenged by the presence of man and the animals he brought with him.

“To understand the origin of this new mouse I compared its teeth morphology with the ones of fossil mice collected by palaeontologists,” he said. “This comparison revealed that this mouse colonised and adapted to the Cypriot environment several thousand years before the arrival of Man.''

The mouse is the latest of about a dozen species of mammals discovered by scientists over the past few years.

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