A species of mouse-like mouse recently discovered in the mountains of the Philippines may play a vital role in the survival of the endangered Philippine eagle. The new species (Baletemys kampalili) is named after the Balete mouse of Danilo (Dani) Balete, the late biologist who discovered it.
Like the Amazon rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, the mountains of the Philippines are full of biodiversity. The dense jungle surrounding the mountains is the perfect habitat for animals and other organisms to thrive.
“Over the past few decades, we’ve learned how incredibly important the Philippines is as home to mammals found nowhere else, and much of that knowledge can be traced back to the fieldwork led by Danny Ballett.” , says Larry Heaney, curator of mammals at Chicago’s Field Museum and senior author of the paper describing the new mouse in Journal of Mammalogyin press release.
(Courtesy: Larry Heaney, Field Museum) The late Filipino biologist Danilo “Danny” Ballet
Because the mountains are so high, the temperatures are cooler and the climate is more humid. It is difficult for small mammals such as mice to travel from one mountain range to another, so they tend to remain isolated in a particular mountain, making it possible for new species to evolve.
“The higher and larger the mountain range, the more species of mammals will live there that don’t live anywhere else in the world,” Heaney said in a press release.
Heaney worked with Balete for 25 years until his untimely death in 2017. Balete was highly regarded by his colleagues and friends.
“He was just a superb field biologist. “Danny could identify every plant, every frog, every bug, anything you came across, it was just amazing,” Heaney said in a press release.
Between 2007 and 2010, Ballet researched the endangered Philippine Eagle on Mount Campalili as part of the Chicago Field Museum’s collaboration with the Philippine Eagle Foundation. The researchers wanted to find out what kinds of small mammals live on Mount Kampali with the eagles.
While searching for these small mammals, however, Ballett and his team discovered a dark brown, mouse-like mouse. With a pointed nose and small eyes, Ballet noticed that it closely resembled the mice of Luzon, an island 100 miles away.
After sending three mouse specimens to the Field Museum for DNA analysis, Ballet was confirmed to have discovered a new species.
“This DNA study showed that the new mouse is not related to the species in the northern Philippines, but instead is related to the Mindanao species. It appears to be a remarkable case of what biologists call convergence – distantly related species that have independently evolved to resemble each other in ways that allow them to use habitats and resources in similar ways,” says Dakota Rosie, the study’s first author, Vertebrate Collections Manager at Arizona State University, in a news release.
The new species is an important factor in understanding the diverse life in the Philippines. A new species could boost conservation efforts for the eagles that make Mount Kampalili their home.
“It’s really important to show that when we protect a species like the magnificent Philippine eagle, we’re protecting not only our unique biological wealth, but also our cultural heritage,” said Jason Ibanez, co-author and director of research and conservation at the Philippine Eagle Foundation. , in a press release.
The Ballet Mouse and the Philippine Eagle share their home with the local Mandaya group on Mount Kampalili. “Indigenous people get very excited when they learn that they share their homeland with a completely unique life form. And in this case, when we help protect Mount Campalili, we are also protecting the main watershed, air basins and biocultural refuges for a large part of southeastern Mindanao, giving enormous benefits to all the people who live here,” Ibáñez said in a press release . “With all the threats from watershed destruction and climate change, we need all the help we can get.”