At first, they tried to use a combination of peanut butter and slices of fried coconut as bait to rodents in the late 1980s. The scientists wanted to capture rodents in the mountains of the Philippines and learn more about them, but they discovered something else.
Peanut butter is not for everyone. For some, they wanted worms that they could sip like some good ‘ole spaghetti.
The scientists stumbled upon two new species of rats, both of whom did not touch their peanut butter bait, instead “slurped [an earthworm] up like a kid eating spaghetti,” Eric Rickart, a curator of the Natural History Museum of Utah at the University of Utah and lead researcher, said in their report that has been published in the Journal of Mammalogy.
They called the new species Rhynchomys labo and Rhynchomys mingan. Rhynchomys, from the Greek term rhyncos, means snout, while mys is for mouse, which is a reference to the long pointed noses of the tweezer-beaked hopping rats.
“They’re quite bizarre,” Rickart said. “They hop around on their sturdy hind legs and large hind feet, almost like little kangaroos. They have long, delicate snouts, and almost no chewing teeth.”
“They’re very docile, very cute,” Larry Heaney, a curator at the Field Museum and co-author of the study, said. “Their fur is short and very, very dense, like a plush toy. They make little runways through the forest and patrol these little trails, day and night, looking for earthworms.”
According to the Museum of Natural History, Heaney leads the yearly mammal survey in the Philippines along with two Filipino scientists who are also part of the research study: the late Danilo Balete of the Field Museum and Philip Alviola, a professor at the University of the Philippines Los Banos.
The two new species of rodents were found on Mount Labo and Mount Mingan in the Philippines, thus their names. This new discovery just proves how incredible the country’s biodiversity really is.
Rickart and Heaney believes the Philippines’ islands and mountains are actually a “perfect breeding ground for new species of mammals.”
“Just about every time we’ve gone to a new area of Luzon with mountains, we’ve discovered that there are unique species,” Rickart said.
However, they also call upon the protection of the islands, as they stated the Philippines biodiversity is under threat.
“Every time we find a reason to say, ‘This place is unique,’ that tells people that it’s worthy of protection,” Alviola said.