Biodiversity in the News: New Species of Hero Shrew Is All the Rage

Hero ShrewThis announcement from the Field Museum of Natural History’s weekly Science and Education News bulletin (20 March 2014) notes the work of RU science/sustainability professor and FMNH adjunct curator, Julian Kerbis Peterhans, an expert in small mammal taxonomy, ecology, and conservation.

Bill Stanley (Director, Collections Center), John Bates (Associate Curator), and Julian Kerbis (Adjunct Curator and Prof at Roosevelt Univ.) just learned that their paper describing “Thor’s Hero Shrew” ranks among Biology Letters’ top ten “most downloaded articles” from 2013. The paper (“‘A new hero emerges: another exceptional mammalian spine and its potential adaptive significance”) describes a new species of “Hero Shrew,” Scutisorex thori, which possesses a bizarre lower spine that has interlocking vertebrae that render the spine four to five times more robust relative to body mass. It may represent intermediate character states between the only other known Hero Shrew species and other shrews.

The paper grew out of  an NSF project on the evolutionary history of Old World shrews that involved Bill, Julian, John, and their other co-authors, who include FMNH Research Associates Rainer Hutterer and Jake Esselstyn. The paper is now featured on the journal’s website.

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