New Species Looks Like Mouse, Is More Similar to Elephant

One-ounce shrew has some surprising DNA cousins
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2014 2:44 PM CDT
New Species Looks Like Mouse, Is More Similar to Elephant
The newly discovered Macroscelides micus elephant shrew is seen in this image.   (J ack Dumbacher/California Academy of Sciences)

Scientists have discovered a new species that, though it looks a lot like a mouse, is actually a close genetic relative of an elephant. The mammal, which was found in a remote western African desert, is a type of elephant shrew or "round-eared sengi." Dubbed the Macroscelides micus, it's the smallest elephant shrew ever discovered, measuring 7.5 inches long and weighing just an ounce, according to Reuters and the California Academy of Sciences. It's also the third elephant shrew species discovered in the wild in the past decade.

"It turns out this thing that looks and acts like shrews that evolved in Africa is more closely related to elephants," one researcher says. The animal's only visible elephant-esque feature is its long, trunk-like nose, which is great for hunting insects and is fairly common among shrews. In addition to its diminutive size, the Macroscelides micus is distinguished from its shrew cousins by its rust-colored fur, a hairless gland on the underside of its tail, and various genetic differences. (Elsewhere in the animal kingdom, scientists have unraveled secrets behind the electric eel's jolt.)

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