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Scientists discover mouse-like mammal with a 'trunk' related to elephants

Published on Jun 27, 2014 10:58 AM
 
A Macroscelides micus elephant shrew found in the remote deserts of southwestern Africa is shown in this handout photo from the California Academy of Sciences. The new mammal discovered in the remote desert of western Africa resembles a long-nosed mouse in appearance but is more closely related genetically to elephants. It inhabits an ancient volcanic formation in Namibia and sports red fur that helps it blend in with the color of its rocky surroundings. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A new mammal discovered in the remote desert of western Africa resembles a long-nosed mouse in appearance but is more closely related genetically to elephants, says a California scientist who helped identify the tiny creature.

The new species of elephant shrew, given the scientific name Macroscelides micus, inhabits an ancient volcanic formation in Namibia and sports red fur that helps it blend in with the color of its rocky surroundings, said Dr John Dumbacher, one of a team of biologists behind the discovery.

Genetic testing of the creature - which weighs up to 28g and measures 19cm in length, including its tail - revealed its DNA to be more akin to much larger mammals.

"It turns out this thing that looks and acts like shrews that evolved in Africa is more closely related to elephants,"said Dr Dumbacher, a curator of birds and mammals at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

 
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