Tiny 'Lost Species' Is Alive and Well

Elephant shrew spotted for first time since 1968
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2020 7:35 PM CDT
Rare Elephant Shrew Is 'Back on the Radar'
Elephant shrews are more closely related to elephants than shrews.   (Getty Images/aaprophoto)

A tiny "lost species" has been rediscovered, thriving far from human activity in the Horn of Africa. Researchers say they set out to find the Somali sengi, one of 20 species of elephant shrew, in Djibouti and lucked out with the first of 1,000 traps they set in dry, rocky locations. "We did not know which species occurred in Djibouti and when we saw the diagnostic feature of a little tufted tail, we looked at each other and we knew that it was something special," Duke University researcher Steven Heritage tells the BBC. This is the first time researchers have found the species since 1968, and Heritage says it is exciting to put it "back on the radar." The expedition found a total of 12 Somali sengis and captured live photos and video of the animal for the first time.

"A number of small mammal surveys since the 1970s did not find the Somali sengi in Djibouti—it was serendipitous that it happened so quickly for us," Heritage says. Despite its size, the creature, which mates for life and uses its trunk-like nose to suck up insects, is more closely related to elephants, aardvarks, and manatees than it is to shrews. The Global Wildlife Conservation group says that unlike other rediscovered animals on its "Lost Species" list, the Somali sengi appears to have a secure future and immediate conservation efforts aren't necessary, the Guardian reports. The group says the find gives it new hope for other small mammals on its "most wanted list," including De Winton’s golden mole and the Ilin Island cloudrunner. (More elephant shrew stories.)

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