Hannover, 14th July 2008 The working group of University Senior Lecturer Dr. Ute Radespiel from the Institute of Zoology of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation (TiHo), together with Malagasy scientists and students of the GERP organisation (Groupe d`Étude et de Recherche sur les Primates de Madagascar), have described a primate species which has, up until now, remained unknown to experts. The results were published on the internet page of the American Journal of Primatology (www.interscience.wiley.com/ajp, on July, 14th). The small nocturnal mouse lemur species has been named Microcebus macarthurii, MacArthur`s mouse lemur. The animals live in eastern Madagascar in the dense, evergreen mountainous rainforests of the Makira region. They were discovered by the Malagasy scientists when inventorying the lemur fauna of the area. Since the project is being supported by the MacArthur Foundation from the USA the new species has been named after the Foundation.
To date, this generally unknown species has been sighted only in the Makira region. The scientists suspect that the natural range of the MacArthur`s mouse lemur is very small, as several large rivers and a mountain range cut through the region - these natural barriers could limit the mouse lemur's dissemination.
After their discovery small tissue samples were taken from the animals, which were then genetically characterized by the working group of PD Dr. Ute Radespiel in the Institute of Zoology of the TiHo and compared with the gene sequences of 15 already known mouse lemur species. This project part was financed by the Bundesamt für Naturschutz (Federal Agency for Nature Conservation).
The new species not only differs genetically but also in its body size from the sister species, the Mittermeier`s mouse lemur that occurs sympatrically in the same region. The Makira region, after these new findings, is one of the areas with the richest lemur fauna on Madagascar. University Senior Lecturer Radespiel said: 'Unfortunately, this exceptional centre of biodiversity is in real danger. As in many other regions of Madagascar, too, deforestation activities, slash-and-burn cultivation, hunting and mining of mineral resources pose an enormous threat to the remaining forests and their inhabitants. Conservation activities are urgently needed to ensure the long-term survival of these animals.'