Just when we think that all animal species on the planet have been discovered, nature throws a curveball. And for researchers in Australia, 2020 has sent them two new and previously unknown mammal species to study.
Researchers had previously believed that there was only one type of the greater glider. However, following a publication in Nature, it was revealed that there are actually three types of greater gliders in the wild.
The corrected information came from the Scientific Reports journal. One of the report’s authors, Professor Andrew Krockenberger from James Cook University, shared with The Sydney Morning Herald that this confirmation meant that Australia’s biodiversity has become even more diverse as the discovery is a huge one. He added that not only is it rare to discover new mammals, but it’s even rarer to discover two new species at the same time.
two new greater glider species have been discovered in australia!
it was previously assumed they were of one species, but apparently greater gliders comprise of three separate species. they’re one of the world’s biggest gliding mammals. look at how cute they are! pic.twitter.com/neVdL7Klv3
— freyr (@sunfloweraidil) November 8, 2020
The two new species are greater gliders, a species of marsupial who are exclusive to Australia. These animals are small mammals, about the size of a possum, and they are nocturnal. They also have ringtails that look similar to those of lemurs. They’re herbivores that eat only eucalyptus leaves and buds. The greater gliders are also quite adept at hiding, as they can stuff themselves into really small holes in trees, and can easily hide from predators. They’re able to glide up to 100 meters through trees as they look for their next meal.
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After researchers found that the greater gliders consist of different species, there is now a distinction to their natural habitats, with different species living in the northern, southern, and central ranges of Australia. And as researchers have discovered, it turns out that they vary in size as well, with the gliders getting smaller in size the further north the researchers went into the eucalyptus forests between Mackay and Cairns in Queensland. The larger gliders seemed to live in the southern portions of the country in the eastern eucalyptus forests of Victoria and New South Wales. These are the glider species that researchers are most familiar with.
While there are varying differences in their habitual traits, it is believed that these species are related to the same species. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, a Ph.D. candidate with James Cook University, Denise McGregor, has stated that many professors have long-held suspicions that there were other species of the greater glider, but now there is finally DNA evidence to back up these speculations.
Two New Greater Glider Species Discovered in Australia:
The study adds two new marsupials to Australia’s list of endemic species & creates new challenges for protecting them.
— Natural Capital Coalition (@NatCapCoalition) November 9, 2020
The gliders were once a prolific mammal 30 years ago, but today they have now become recognized as endangered. The reason for their population decline is the constant destruction of their natural habitats due to steady logging and rapid urbanization. Researchers have further noted that climate change has also played a factor in the displacement of gliders and their subsequent diminishing numbers.
In fact, the gliders that live in Victoria’s Central Highlands have seen an 80% decrease in numbers during the past 20 years, while other gliders in areas, such as Jervis Bay, have completely vanished. This is why the discovery of the glider diversity was “really exciting” as Australian National University ecologist, Kara Youngentob, noted to The Sydney Morning Herald.
While Youngentob shared that it was a step in the right direction, she still cautioned that there are plenty of man-made threats to the animals that need to be addressed in order to hopefully reserve any further damage. She further warned that climate change is a major threat and it needs to be addressed if wildlife, such as the gliders, are to have a chance at survival.
She said to the news outlet, “For the southern species, anything over 20 degrees Celsius at night means it has to use its energy to actively cool itself and high temperatures also put them off their food and stop them eating.”
These adorable little animals’ discovery is definitely a step in the right direction, however, more care of the natural world needs to be shown if these species, as well as others, are going to have a viable future in their natural environments.
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