A pair of mammals previously unknown to science have been discovered in a forest in Australia, according to a new study.
The research, published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, notes that a pair of greater gliders, marsupials that are roughly the size of a cat, were discovered after scientists re-examined DNA samples of the gliders. It shows there is more diversity among gliders than previously known, as well as more biodiversity in Australia.
“There has been speculation for a while that there was more than one species of greater glider, but now we have proof from the DNA,” the study’s lead author, James Cook University doctoral student Denise McGregor said in a statement. “It changes the whole way we think about them.”
(Credit: Steven Kuiter)
The researchers used Diversity Arrays (DArT) sequencing to come up with their findings, which study co-author James Cook University professor Andrew Krockenberger said added to Australia’s biodiversity.
Study co-author Kara Youngentob said the identification and the classification of the two new gliders should help with conservation of the endangered mammals.
“This year Australia experienced a bushfire season of unprecedented severity, resulting in widespread habitat loss and mortality. As a result, there’s been an increased focus on understanding genetic diversity and structure of species to protect resilience in the face of climate change,” Youngentob explained.
“The division of the greater glider into multiple species reduces the previous widespread distribution of the original species, further increasing conservation concern for that animal and highlighting the lack of information about the other greater glider species,” Youngentob continued.
In May 2016, the species was listed as endangered, but in June 2020, the World Wildlife Fund found that destruction of their habitat increased by 52% in New South Wales and Queensland.
Greater gliders can live as long as 15 years, experts have said previously.