New insectivorous mammal species discovered in India after four decades.

A new insect-eating mammal species almost the size of a house mouse has been discovered in India after over four decades. A Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) team discovered the grey-coloured shrew that feeds on insects on the remote uninhabited dormant volcanic island of Narcondam in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

“Till date, 422 species of mammals have been reported from India. We have added one more… with the new discovery. It is after four decades that we have discovered an insect-eating mammal. In between, a few other mammal species like macaques and bats have been discovered,” said Kailash Chandra, former director of ZSI, who retired last week.

The last insect-eating mammal species were discovered on South Andaman Island in 1978. It was named Jenkin’s Andaman shrew. The new animal has been named Crocidura Norcondamica after the Narcondam Island where it was found.

Earlier, 11 species of shrew have been reported from India.

The latest finding has been published in Scientific Reports, an online multidisciplinary open-access journal from the publishers of Nature.

“The new species show substantial genetic differences with other shrew species earlier discovered from India, Myanmar, and Sumatra,” said Shantanu Kundu, a scientist from the ZSI’s Centre for DNA Taxonomy.

The animal lives on the forest floor, feeds on insects and helps control the insect population in the dense forest of Narcondam.

Due to the remoteness and inaccessibility throughout the year, the smaller islands of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are not as explored as the larger islands.

“As the island [Narcondam] is uninhabited, the new species may not face the human disturbances, but the extremely restricted insular habitat and the associated limited population size will automatically result in increased vulnerability of the species,” said Chandra.

According to ZSI scientists, further field studies on taxonomy, ecology, and distribution of the animal will help understand the present status and promote conservation plans.

Source- Hindustan Times.

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