Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hiding in plain sight: New species of flying squirrel discovered

07.06.2017

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.


The newly-described Humboldt's flying squirrel is the third-known species of flying squirrel in North America.

Credit: Nick Kerhoulas

"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 burkepr@uw.edu.

Media Contact

Andrea Godinez
burkepr@uw.edu
206-616-7538

 @UW

http://www.washington.edu/news/ 

Andrea Godinez | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: DNA last Ice Age northern flying squirrels squirrel

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides
16.07.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

nachricht The secret sulfate code that lets the bad Tau in
16.07.2018 | American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino

16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides

16.07.2018 | Life Sciences

New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon

16.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>