The first new European mammal in 100 years? You must be joking
One internet article on the discovery states that it ‘overturns the widely held belief that every living species of mammal had been identified in Europe’, and goes on to state that ‘it was generally assumed that the European biodiversity had been entirely picked over by the natural history pioneers of the 19th century’. Well, ok, something can be a ‘widely held belief’ and still be pretty much untrue, but while one might expect that Europe is a well known place where few new species are found nowadays, these statements – like most media statements pertaining to the rarity of recently discovered species – are wildly inaccurate. Sure, there aren’t as many new mammals coming out of 21st century
You will know from previous blog posts that during the last few decades a large number of tropical rodents have been named and described (see New, obscure, and nearly extinct rodents of South America and Giant furry pets of the Incas). And so it is with
Five European mice have been named within the last 100 years, four of which are obscure, and one of which is well known and well studied. Firstly, we have the Cretan spiny mouse Acomys minous Bate, 1906, a cold-adapted island endemic (Bate’s publication is sometimes given as 1905, in which case this isn’t a ‘100 year’ mammal). The second species, the Western house mouse Mus domesticus Schwartz & Schwartz, 1943, is anything but poorly known, and though not recognized as distinct from M. musculus Linnaeus, 1758 until 1943, it can hardly be regarded as a recently discovered species. As the common name suggests, the Western house mouse is the house mouse species of western Europe (as well as northern
The third ‘100 year’ European mouse species was first described from Allgäu in Germany: it’s the Alpine wood mouse Apodemus alpicola Heinrich, 1952, now known to occur in the Alps of Switzerland, Liechenstein, Austria and Italy as well as those of Germany. Though first named as a new species, it later became regarded as a high-altitude subspecies of the Yellow-necked mouse A. flavicollis. A 1989 study demonstrated that it should be recognised as a distinct species again. Also belonging to the genus Apodemus is the
Exactly as obscure as some of these mice are various ‘100 year’ vole species. One of them is comparatively well known however, and indeed is the best known recently discovered European mammal: the Bavarian pine vole Microtus bavaricus Konig, 1962 of the Bavarian and Italian Alps. Ironically, the reason the species is ‘best known’ is because it was thought to have become extinct: there was an absence of sightings after its discovery, and in 1980 a hospital was constructed on the location where it formerly occurred. However, the species was rediscovered by Friederike Spitzenberger in 2004 at a location in
Four other Microtus voles have been named within the last 100 years. Cabrera’s vole Microtus cabrerae Thomas, 1906 is a poorly known, endangered Spanish species. Far better studied is the Sibling vole Microtus rossiaemeridionalis Ognev, 1924, a species that occurs from
The third species, the Tatra pine vole Microtus tatricus Kratochvíl, 1952, was first described from
Another ‘100 years’ vole is the highly distinctive Balkan snow vole or Martino’s snow vole Dinaromys bogdanovi (Martino, 1922), originally named as a species of Microtus but awarded its own genus in 1955. Occurring in
Finally among rodents, we come to another obscure and poorly known species, Roach’s mouse-tailed dormouse Myomimus roachi (Bate, 1937). First described from
Moving now to lipotyphlans, or insectivorans or whatever you want to call them, we find that several species have been named within the last 100 years.
Moving now to white-toothed shrews, we find that four European species have been named since the 1950s. Shrews have proved very good at colonizing islands, and only within recent decades have mammalogists started to properly describe and differentiate the island endemic white-toothed shrews of the European islands. Crete has its own recently-named white-toothed shrew, the Cretan white-toothed shrew C. zimmermanni Wettstein, 1953, while
During the 1980s two new white-toothed shrews were named from the
Though it has since been demoted to subspecific status, it’s also worth noting that the white-toothed shrew of the Isles of Scilly, Crocidura suaveolens cassiteridum, was originally named as a distinct species (C. cassiteridum) in 1924 (Hinton 1924) [see adjacent image]. This shrew isn’t unique to the Isles of Scilly, as it also occurs on
Finally among shrews, there is the Neomys species Miller’s water shrew Neomys anomalus Cabrera, 1907, also known as the
Among ‘100 year’ European lipotyphlans, it’s not all just shrews. Three new European mole species have been named since 1906: the
Finally, we come to bats. While most European bat species were formally named in the 1800s and before, new taxa continue to be discovered, with several species named this century. Many people might immediately think of the two pipistrelle species dubbed informally the 45 and 55 kHz pipistrelles: in 1993 it was discovered that the ‘species’ Pipistrellus pipistrellus actually consisted of two distinct species, both of which differed in the echolocation frequencies of their calls, and which were later shown to differ in genetics, morphology and behaviour (Barlow et al. 1997, Davidson-Watts & Jones 2006). However, while the many differences between these two species have only recently been acknowledged, both were originally named during the 1700s and 1800s: the 45 kHz pipistrelle is P. pipistellus (Schreber, 1774) while the 55 kHz pipistrelle is P. pygmaeus Leach, 1825. Consequently, neither bat can be considered a ‘100 year’ discovery.
However, vesper bats have yielded several bona fide new European species within the last 100 years, though as we shall see a few of them are of controversial status. The most recently named of them are the two long-eared bats Plecotus microdontus Spitzenberger et al. 2002 from Austria and P. sardus Mucedda et al., 2002 from Sardinia, though P. microdontus has since been regarded by some as synonymous with the Brown long-eared bat P. auritus. Also recently named is the Alpine long-eared bat P. alpinus Kiefer & Veith, 2001, named for a specimen collected in France in 2001 (Kiefer & Veith 2001). Additional specimens are known from
Yet another recently recognised species, P. macrobullaris Kuzjakin, 1965, was named for long-eared bats from Switzerland and Austria supposedly intermediate between the Brown long-eared bat and Grey long-eared bat P. austriacus, but shown by Spitzenberger et al. (2001) to be worthy of species status. P. macrobullaris is now known from
Several new long-eared bat subspecies have also been named within the last few decades, and new data has caused some of them to be newly elevated to species level. Within P. auritus, the subspecies P. a. hispanicus (later reidentified as a subspecies of P. austriacus) was named in 1957, P. a. kolombatovici in 1980, and P. a. begognae in 1990. Genetic studies have shown that P. a. kolombatovici is distinct enough to be regarded as a full species (Mayer & von Helverson 2001, Spitzenberger et al. 2001), though the animal labelled as P. a. kolombatovici by Spitzenberger et al. (2001) later turned out to be P. alpinus. Another form first named as a subspecies of P. auritus, P. a. teneriffae Barret-Hamilton, 1907, was recognised as worthy of species status in 1985. Though they started their taxonomic histories as subspecies, both P. kolombatovici and P. teneriffae can therefore be stated to have been discovered within the last 100 years.
Another new vesper bat, this time a mouse-eared bat, is in the ‘100 years’ club, but it seems unlikely to be a valid species. It’s the Nathaline bat Myotis nathalinae Tupinier, 1977, described for two specimens from
A second new mouse-eared bat, M. alcathoe von Helverson et al., 2001, is morphologically and genetically distinct, and noteworthy in being Europe’s smallest mouse-eared bat, and the one with the most high-pitched echolocation calls. First reported from Greece and Hungary, in 2003 it was reported from Slovakia.
So, so far it’s all been rodents, insectivores and bats: exactly those groups of mammals you’d expect to contain recently-discovered species. Indeed, that is about it. There is, however, a ‘100 year’ European lagomorph: the Broom hare Lepus castroviejoi Palacios, 1977 of the Catabrian Mountains of north-west Spain, a species regarded as merely a population of the European hare L. europaeus until 1976 (Palacios 1977). This poorly known hare is obscure and has been widely overlooked, in fact it’s missing from several (post-1977!) field guides on European mammals. There does appear to be widespread acceptance of its specific status, however, even though there is some indication that the species hybridizes with the Mountain hare L. timidus (Melo-Ferreira et al. 2005).
It’s pretty clear then that the Cypriot mouse is most certainly not ‘the first new mammal species to be found in
To conclude, those European mammals named within the past 100 years – excluding the Cypriot mouse – are as follows. I might have missed some, in which case please let me know [UPDATE: list ammended as of 18-11-2006. Thanks to those who have provided new data]. As noted, a few species are of dubious status, and have been marked with **.
- Cretan spiny mouse Acomys minous Bate, 1906
- Western house mouse Mus domesticus Schwartz & Schwartz, 1943
- Alpine wood mouse Apodemus alpicola Heinrich, 1952
field mouse A. iconicus Heptner, 1948 Mount Hermon
- Balkan short-tailed mouse Mus macedonicus Petrov & Ruzic, 1983
- Bavarian pine vole Microtus bavaricus Konig, 1962
- Cabrera’s vole M. cabrerae Thomas, 1906
- Sibling vole M. rossiaemeridionalis Ognev, 1924
- Tatra pine vole M. tatricus Kratochvíl, 1952
- Balkan pine vole M. felteni Malec & Storch, 1963
- Balkan snow vole or Martino’s snow vole Dinaromys bogdanovi (Martino, 1922)
Southern water vole Arvicola sapidus Miller, 1908
- Roach’s mouse-tailed dormouse Myomimus roachi (Bate, 1937)
- Spanish or Iberian shrew Sorex granarius Miller, 1910
- Taiga or Even-toothed shrew S. isodon Turov, 1924
- Appenine shrew S. samniticus Altobello, 1926
- Cretan white-toothed shrew Crocidura zimmermanni Wettstein, 1953
shrew C. cossyrensis Contoli, 1989 ** Pantelleria Island
- Canary shrew C. canariensis Hutterer et al., 1987
- Osorio shrew C. osorio Molina & Hutterer, 1989
- Miller’s water shrew Neomys anomalus Cabrera, 1907
- Levant mole Talpa levantis Thomas, 1906
- Iberian mole T. occidentalis Cabrera, 1907
- Balkan or Stankovic’s mole T. stankovici Martino & Martino, 1931
- Alpine long-eared bat Plecotus alpinus Kiefer & Veith, 2001 **
- P. microdontus Spitzenberger et al. 2002 **
- P. kolombatovici (Dulic, 1980)
- P. teneriffae Barret-Hamilton, 1907
- P. macrobullaris Kuzjakin, 1965
- Nathaline bat Myotis nathalinae Tupinier, 1977 **
- M. alcathoe von Helverson et al., 2001
- Broom hare Lepus castroviejoi Palacios, 1977
Refs - -
Barlow, K. E., Jones, G. & Barratt, E. M. 1997. Can skull morphology be used to predict ecological relationships between bat species? A test using two cryptic species of pipistrelle. Proceedings of the Royal Society of
Bogdanowicz, W. 1990. Geographic variation and taxonomy of Daubenton’s bat, Myotis daubentoni, in
Davidson-Watts, I. & Jones, G. 2005. Differences in foraging behaviour between Pipistrellus pipistrellus (Schreber, 1774) and Pipistrellus pygmaeus (Leach, 1825). Journal of Zoology 268, 55-62.
Hinton, M. A. C. 1924. On a new species of Crocidura from Scilly. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 14, 509-510.
Hoffmann, R. S. 1987. A review of the systematics and distribution of Chinese red-toothed shrews (Mammalia: Soricinae). Acta Theriologica Sinica 7, 100-139.
Juste, J., Ibáñez, C., Muñoz, J.,
Kiefer, A. & Veith, M. 2001. A new species of long-eared bat from
Kryštufek, B. & Mozetič Francky, B. 2005.
Mayer, F. & von Helversen, O. 2001. Cryptic diversity in European bats. Proceedings of the Royal Society of
Melo-Ferreira, J., Boursot, P., Suchentrunk, F., Ferrand, N. & Alves, P. C. 2005. Invasion from the cold past: extensive introgression of mountain hare (Lepus timidus) mitochondrial DNA into three other hare species in northern
Palacios, F. 1977. Descripcion de una nueva especie de liebre (Lepus castroviejoi) endémica de la cordillera Cantabrica. Doñana Acta Vertebrata 3, 205-223.
Spitzenberger, F., Piálek, J. & Haring, E. 2001. Systematics of the genus Plecotus (Mammalia, Vespertilionidae) in
Tupinier, Y. 1977. Description d'une Chauve-souris nouvelle: Myotis nathalinae nov. sp. (Chiroptera, Vespertilionidae). Mammalia 41, 327-340.