For hundreds of years, a species of flying squirrel was hiding right under (actually, above) our noses.
A new study published May 30 in the Journal of Mammalogy describes a newly discovered third species of flying squirrel in North America -- now known as Humboldt's flying squirrel, or Glaucomys oregonensis. It inhabits the Pacific Coast region of North America, from southern British Columbia to the mountains of southern California. Until now, these coastal populations were simply thought to be the already-known northern flying squirrel.
"For 200 years we thought we had only had one species of flying squirrel in the Northwest -- until we looked at the nuclear genome, in addition to mitochondrial DNA, for the first time," said study co-author Jim Kenagy, professor emeritus of biology at the University of Washington and curator emeritus of mammals at the Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture.
Biologists used to classify the flying squirrels of California and the coastal Pacific Northwest as northern flying squirrels. It wasn't until lead author Brian Arbogast, associate professor of biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and formerly a postdoctoral researcher at UW and the Burke Museum, looked closely at the genetics of flying squirrel specimens from the Burke's collections that it became apparent that they may be a different species. Flying squirrels collected since the early 1900s in the Pacific Coast region often looked smaller and darker than their counterparts from east of the Cascades.
Ultimately, it was DNA testing that revealed a third species unique to the Pacific Northwest.
The results of the DNA analyses were striking: they indicated that no gene flow was occurring between the Pacific Coastal form and the widespread, inland, continental form of the northern flying squirrel, even when two occurred together.
Because the new study shows that Humboldt's and northern flying squirrels both occur together at the same places within some parts of Western Washington and southern British Columbia, it is possible that future studies might reveal hybridization between these two species, even though this study did not find the two species interbreeding in the areas the research team examined.
Kenagy, Arbogast and other researchers spent years studying small mammals in the Northwest and how they distributed themselves in the western and eastern mountain ranges, as recently as the period following the last Ice Age. In some cases, the eastern and western mammals evolved into different species over the past million years or so.
"It was a surprising discovery," said Kenagy. "We were interested in the genetic structure of small mammals throughout the Pacific Northwest, and the fact that in other cases we were aware that two different species had evolved in Eastern and Western Washington."
The new genetic study clearly demonstrates that Pacific Coast populations of flying squirrels from southern British Columbia, southward through western Washington and Oregon, and in California, now include members of the newly named species, Humboldt's flying squirrel.
The Humboldt's flying squirrel is known as a "cryptic" species -- a species that was previously thought to be another, known species because the two look similar.
This new discovery of the Humboldt's flying squirrel is the 45th known species of flying squirrel in the world. What are now three species of flying squirrels in North and Central America are all small, nocturnally-active, gliding squirrels that live in woodland habitats. These creatures don't actually fly like bats or birds. Instead, they glide from tree to tree by extending furred membranes of skin that stretch from the wrist of the forearm to the ankle on the hind leg. Their feather-like tail provides extra lift and also aids in steering. The gliding ability of flying squirrels is remarkable; they are capable of gliding for up to 100 meters and can make sharp, midair turns by using their tail as a rudder and moving their limbs to manipulate the shape and tautness of their gliding membranes.
The squirrel specimens in the Burke Museum's collections -- and other natural history museums around the world -- are standing by for future researchers to learn more about these remarkable "new" creatures.
Co-authors are Katelyn Schumacher with the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Nicholas Kerhoulas with the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Alaska Museum, Allison Bidlack with the University of Alaska Southeast and Joseph Cook with the University of New Mexico. The research was funded by the University of Washington.
For more information, contact Godinez at 206-616-7538 or email@example.com.
Andrea Godinez | EurekAlert!
Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?
17.11.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care
Microbial resident enables beetles to feed on a leafy diet
17.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine
17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses