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UIS graduate discovered a new species of spiny mouse in Ecuador: ‘Neacomys Marci’.

A new species of spiny mouse called ‘Neacomys Marci’ has been discovered in Ecuador, which makes it the fourteenth of its genus identified in the last five years.

A UIS graduate participated in the interdisciplinary research that began about four years ago. He is biologist Javier Colmenares Pinzón, who, together with Nicolás Tinoco, from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (Quito); Claudia Koch, from the Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change (Germany); and Jorge Brito, from the National Institute of Biodiversity (Quito, Ecuador), published the description of the rodent in the open access journal Zookeys.

The Neacomys Marci mouse, which was previously confused with another species, is about the length of a tennis ball, has a long tail, pale fur on its belly and a white throat.

Javier Colmenares Pinzón, a biologist graduated from the UIS, who is currently pursuing a doctorate at Texas Tech University in the United States.

Colmenares, who did his undergraduate and master’s degree in Biology at the UIS, and is currently doing his doctoral studies at Texas Tech University, in the United States, told how and where this discovery was made.

“This research has been going on for three or four years in which we have been understanding the diversity of this group of mice. In 2021 I discovered a species that is endemic to the Serranía de los Yariguíes in Santander: Neacomys serranensis.

“When I made my discovery I did genetic characterization of some populations of another species in Colombia; it was also supposed to be in Ecuador, so recently my colleagues in Ecuador did genetic characterizations of other populations, we made comparisons and we realized that, although they were considered the same species, they really were not”.

This is the new species of spiny mouse, named Neacomys marci.

When compared with the populations in Colombia, this new species has certain characteristics at the level of the skull and teeth that are unique, it also has a particular characteristic in its fur: it is a little brownish and the base of the hairs on the belly is grayish; in addition, its throat is totally white, instead the populations of Colombia that were supposedly considered the same species do have the fur on the belly totally white, in that they are different.

Neacomys Marci, the new spiny mouse, is a species endemic to the Chocoan region in Ecuador, a rather humid area. “Specifically, it is found in two protected areas, the Dracula reserve and the Canandé reserve. In theory it is a species that fortunately is protected, private areas acquired by foundations,” added Colmenares who feels very proud to carry the UIS seal.

“The UIS is my alma mater where I have acquired all my knowledge in the area of biology where I had my training in the research field and obtained all the necessary knowledge to be able to participate in this type of interdisciplinary research, be at the level of other researchers who have years of experience and be able to work side by side with them”.

It is not easy to carry out this type of research that requires financial support, but Javier emphasizes the importance of “discovering this diversity, knowing our species in order to be able to protect and conserve them in the future”.

He also made an invitation to the new generations of students to encourage them to carry out this type of research. “We are in the neotropics, in Colombia the neotropics is the best laboratory to study biodiversity, there are many species waiting to be discovered, a lot of diversity, we are privileged because we have a large number of ecosystems, a huge ecological diversity. It is nice to get to know all that diversity, because everyone knows that in the future it may be threatened by various factors, it would be bad if many species become extinct without even knowing them first”.

The new species, Neacomys Marci, was named after Marc Hoogeslag of the Netherlands, co-founder and leader of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Land Acquisition Fund. This fund has contributed to the creation of ecological reserves around the world, including the EcoMinga Foundation’s Manduriacu Reserve, which is the habitat of this new species.