Biologists rediscover rare cloud rat in Philippines

Other News Materials 28 April 2008 07:29 (UTC +04:00)

A rare rat species last seen over a century ago in the mountainous northern Philippines has been rediscovered by a team of American and Filipino biologists, the AFP reported.

Lawrence Heaney, team leader and curator at the Chicago-based Field Museum of Natural History, said the rare dwarf cloud rat was last seen by British scientists some 112 years ago.

He said the rat was dead when the team found it in a canopy of a large tree whose branches were covered by thick moss, orchids and ferns at a national park in Mount Pulag in northern Luzon, the Philippine Daily Inquirer said.

The animal was described as small "with reddish brown fur, a black mask around its large dark eyes, small round ears, a broad and blunt snout and a long tail covered with dark hair," the report said.

"It is the animal whose existence had baffled biologists for so many years," Heaney said.

The animal has been preserved and is being prepared for shipment to Chicago for further studies.

The discovery proved a theory that the rare species lived only in high canopies with mature mossy forests in areas with an elevation of between 2,200- 2,700 metres (7,200- 8,850 feet) above sea level. Mount Pulag is Luzon's highest peak at 2,922 metres above sea level.

"The cloud rats are one of the most spectacular cases of adaptive radiation by mammals anywhere in the world," Heaney said.

A British researcher, John Whitehead, first saw the rat in 1896 in another mountain region in the north, but little was known about the species.

"Since then the species became a mystery," Heaney said.