Two New Species of African Mole-Rat Discovered

Posted on May 8, 2017

Fukomys hanangensis

Scientists have discovered two new African mole-rat species. They were found by researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), together with colleagues in Tanzania and at the University of Pretoria. The species were both found in Tanzania around Mount Hanang and at Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

One of the species is named after Dr. David Livingstone. Ujiji is the site of the famous meeting in 1871 when Henry Morton Stanley found the British explorer (who was missing and thought to be dead) and said, "Dr Livingstone, I presume?"

The new species have been named Fukomys hanangensis (pictured above) and Fukomys livingstoni. African mole-rats are subterranean rodents that inhabit sub-Saharan Africa. Detailed genetic analysis suggests that geological and volcanic activity isolated these two mole-rat populations subsequent to their earlier dispersal in to this part of East Africa.

Dr Chris Faulkes, from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at QMUL and lead author of the paper published in PeerJ, says in the announcement, "We would like to find out more about the social behaviour of these new species - our initial studies indicate that they are cooperative breeders like others in their genus. A clear understanding of African mole-rats' biodiversity and evolutionary relationships has become increasingly important, not least because there are many species in the family, but also because there are a number of genetically unique, distinctive populations that are limited in their distribution - two of which we now formally name and describe fully in our paper."

Photo: Chris Faulkes