A new rodent species of the genus Mus (Rodentia: Muridae) confirms the biogeographical uniqueness of the isolated forests of southern Ethiopia
|Year of publication
|Article in Periodical
|Magazine / Source
|Organisms Diversity & Evolution
|MU Faculty or unit
|Southwestern Ethiopia; Paleo-endemism; Species delimitation; Bale Mountains; Endemic; Integrative taxonomy
|The Ethiopian highlands represent the largest part of the Eastern Afromontane Biodiversity Hotspot (EAMBH). Their fauna and flora are largely unique. Particularly, Afroalpine habitats on isolated mountains are known to harbour a large number of highly specialized endemic species. In contrast to intensively studied Afroalpine ecosystems, the forests in southern and southwestern parts of the Ethiopian highlands remain neglected in terms of biodiversity research, even though they represent the only remaining natural large-scale forests in this part of EAMBH. Here, we performed an integrative taxonomic revision (combining multi-locus phylogenetic analysis with classical and geometric morphometrics) and analysis of the evolutionary history of ancient lineages of the genus Mus, with a special focus on the taxon discovered in moist Ethiopian forests. We unequivocally showed that this taxon forms a very distinct gene pool separated from other taxa by the mid-Pliocene, substantially differentiated from both sympatric and sister species by external and cranial morphology. None of the available type specimens (including synonym types) can be unambiguously classified to this taxon according to both skull and body form. Therefore, we describe it as a new mammal species, narrowly endemic to two most humid forests in southern (Harenna) and southwestern (Chingawa) part of the Ethiopian highlands. The description of such paleo-endemic taxa will add incentives to embark on urgent conservation action for formal protection of these unique forests within the EAMBH.