An international team of biologists from Thailand, UK and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has described a new species of flying squirrel in the genus Biswamoyopterus.
The new species is named Biswamoyopterus laoensis. The suggested common name is the Laotian giant flying squirrel.
Biswamoyopterus laoensis is a large flying squirrel that weighs 1.8 kg and measures about 42 inches (1.08 m) in total length – the body is about 18 inches (0.46 m) long and the tail is 24 inches (0.62 m) long.
“It is a remarkable discovery for science. It is very rare species with large body size,” explained Mr Daosavanh Sanamxay, a masters student at the Prince of Songkla University in Thailand and a lead author of a paper published in the journal Zootaxa.
“The specimen of the Laotian giant flying squirrel was incidentally found on display for sale at a bush meat market in Central Lao PDR about a year ago.”
“It is probable that the specimen was caught by a local hunter in either the Nam Kading National Biodiversity Conservation Area or the Khammouan Limestone National Biodiversity Conservation Area.”
“This is a large flying squirrel, the upper surface of which is predominantly an admixture of dark reddish brown and black hairs, variably grizzled with whitish-gray,” Mr Sanamxay and his colleagues wrote in the Zootaxa paper.
“Individual hairs are variable in color but usually comprise the following components: metallic-ash at the base for up to 20 mm, reddish brown in the mid-part for about 15 mm, and a black tip of about 3 mm. A distinctive whitish-gray band, some 6 mm in length, is present in hairs that reside in areas of the upper surface that are extensively grizzled.”
The new species is a close relative of the enigmatic Namdapha flying squirrel (Biswamoyopterus biswasi), the only known specimen of which was discovered in northwestern India in 1981.
“Biswamoyopterus biswasi was previously collected at an elevation of 350 m in Deban and until now was only known from the western slope of the Patkai Range in the catchment area of the Noa Dihing River in Namdapha, India. Like Biswamoyopterus biswasi, the extent of the geographical range of Biswamoyopterus laoensis is currently not known,” the scientists wrote.
Bibliographic information: Daosavanh Sanamxay et al. 2013. Rediscovery of Biswamoyopterus (Mammalia: Rodentia: Sciuridae: Pteromyini) in Asia, with the description of a new species from Lao PDR. Zootaxa 3686 (4): 471–481