Ferret-badgers are distributed in the Indochinese region, Java, Bali and NE-Borneo. There are currently four species described, each having very similar phenotypes, meaning they are very similar in coloration and size. German researchers and conservationists now discovered and described a species new to science.
In March 2005, a living ferret-badger, that looked different from all known ferret-badger species was confiscated by rangers from Cuc Phuong National Park in Vietnam. Unfortunately this animal died and the carcass was not trown away. A year later, in January 2006, a newly deceased individual of the same phenotype was found at the Endangered Primate Rescue Center (EPRC) in Cuc Phuong National Park. Due to several different characteristics Tilo Nadler and his colleagues from EPRC noticed that these individuals varied greatly from the current species.
In the current issue of “Der Zoologische Garten” they describe an additional species from northern Vietnam, and because of the area where it was discovered, they called it Melogale cucphuongensis sp. nov..
Melogale cucphuongensis occurs sympatrically with M. moschata and M. personata, but differs from both species clearly in skull morphology and other features. Based on genetic analysis the researchers could show that M. cucphuongensis sp. nov. was a member of the genus Melogale and that it represents a sister lineage to a clade consisting of M. personata and M. moschata. The new species diverged from those two species about 3.54 million years ago.
Even though M. personata and M. moschata are probably the best-known species of ferret-badgers, hardly any information is available on their biology and ecology. Very little is known about their habitat requirements or ecological niches. The similarity in coloration and the variety of color variation between individuals makes it nearly impossible to distinguish the species in the field.
The new ferret-badger species is currently only known from Cuc Phuong National Park.
Tilo Nadler, Ulrike Streicher, Clara Stefen, Elke Schwierz, Christian Roos (2011):
A new species of ferret-badger, Genus Melogale, from Vietnam.
Zool. Garten N.F. 80 (2011) 271–286
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