New Species of White Toothed Shrew Identified

A genetic analysis of the Vietnamese white toothed shrew fauna, reported in the open access journal ZooKeys, has revealed a new species in the genus Crocidura, named Crocidura sapaensis.

Crocidura sapaensis (Jenkins PD et al)

Crocidura sapaensis (Jenkins PD et al)

Describing new mammal species is an unusual event nowadays when mammal fauna has been by and large already thoroughly studied by zoologists during the previous centuries. Molecular analysis, however, presents an additional tool for the complex cases of morphological analysis, thus helping scientists to uncover previous mistakes, and even to find previously overlooked separate species.

The newly identified white toothed shrew is a dark-grey and relatively small white toothed shrew. It has been named after the Sa Pa District in Vietnam, where it was collected.

Crocidura sapaensis were found dwelling in a variety of the beautiful habitats in the vicinity of Tram Ton Station of Hoang Lien National Park, including mixed evergreen forest, banks of small streams and open grassy glades.

Previously confused with Crocidura wuchihensis, the new species remained long unrecognized due to the great extent of morphological resemblance between the two.

Judging solely by the looks, however, proved to be insufficient for the accurate recognition of species, with molecular analysis now offering scientists an opportunity to look under the surface.

“Our study concerns three species of Crocidura occurring in Vietnam, namely C. attenuata, C. tanakae and C. wuchihensis, and we came across an undescribed fourth species revealed by molecular analysis,” said study lead author Dr Paulina Jenkins from London’s Natural History Museum.

“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.”

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Bibliographic information: Jenkins PD et al. 2013. Bones and genes: resolution problems in three Vietnamese species of Crocidura (Mammalia, Soricomorpha, Soricidae) and the description of an additional new species. ZooKeys 313: 61-79; doi: 10.3897/zookeys.313.4823