A new rabbit from South America, with more to come

Main report: New Species of Cottontail Rabbit Identified: Sylvilagus parentum
Other Reporting: Portland State University News, Phys.org, ScienceTimes, Science Daily, ResearchGAte
Scientific Paper: Journal of Mammology   
New Taxa: Sylvilagus parentum
Common Name: Suriname lowland forest cottontail
Species named for: Author's parents
Categories: Mammals | New Species
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A Portland State University researcher discovered that a rabbit known for centuries to exist in South America is different enough from its cousins to be its own unique species.  The creature will be only the third rabbit species named in South America.  Prof. Luis Ruedas made the discovery after studying rabbit specimens at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, the Netherlands, which were collected in the 1980s by Dutch scientists during the fieldwork in Suriname.

The discovery follows another finding that Ruedas published this year showing that the South American cottontail, which was considered to be a single species distributed over a vast area from Mexico to most of South America, really only occupies a small area of Brazil. The other rabbits on the continent — perhaps as many as 35 species in all — will have to be renamed, he said.  The new rabbit species from Suriname is the first on that list.

Ruedas — who has traveled around the world studying small mammals and discovering new species – said the rabbit discovery in South America could affect how animal species are identified as unique, which is an important step when determining if a species is endangered. Ruedas said it could also lead to conservation efforts in Suriname, where environmental degradation is threatening the rabbit’s habitat.

The Suriname lowland forest cottontail (Sylvilagus parentum). Image credit: UOL / IUCN.

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