New tree shrew species found in northern Vietnam

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     The "Crocidura sapaensis"

A group of British, Russian and Vietnamese scientists say they have discovered a new species of tree shrew in the northern province of Lao Cai.

Their finding was published July 2 on ZooKeys, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal launched to support free exchange of ideas and information in systematic zoology, phylogeny and biogeography. 

After genetic analysis revealed that it was distinct from three closely-related species also found in Vietnam, the new species was named "Crocidura sapaensis" after Sa Pa Town, where it was found.

The dark-grey, relatively small, white toothed shrew was found in various places in the Hoang Lien National Park including mixed evergreen forests, banks of small streams and open grassy glades.

The white toothed shrew genus Crocidura is known as the largest mammal genus, with more than 180 species distributed around the world. A recent genetic analysis of the white toothed shrew fauna of Vietnam revealed misinterpretations of previous morphological studies of the species, the ZooKeys report said.

Paulina Jenkins, a zoologist with London's Natural History Museum and lead researcher of the study, said: "Our study concerns three species of Crocidura occurring in Vietnam, namely C. attenuata, C. tanakae and C. wuchihensis, and we came across an un-described fourth species revealed by molecular analysis.

"While the molecular studies of Vietnamese material confirmed some of the results of the contemporaneous morphological studies, a number of anomalies were equally revealed, indicating the presence of several morphologically similar but molecularly distinct taxa," she said.

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