Two new species of greater glider, a cat-sized gliding marsupial that lives in the forests of Australia, have been discovered following DNA tests on new tissue samples of the furry animals.
The discovery means that Australia has a greater biodiversity than previously thought, the researchers explain in their study published in the journal Nature.
Two new mammals discovered
"It's really exciting to find this biodiversity under our noses," study researcher Kara Youngentob told The West Australian in an interview.
"The division of the greater glider into multiple species reduces the previous widespread distribution of the original species, further increasing conservation concern for that animal and highlighting the lack of information about the other greater glider species," she continued.
As CNET reports, the nocturnal greater glider typically sleeps inside hollow trees at nighttime and roams the forest at night searching for plants to eat. True to its name, the animal is able to glide an impressive distance of up to 328 feet (100 meters) in the air.
Unfortunately, even before Australia's recent spate of devastating forest fires, the three known species of greater glider were listed as a "threatened species." The new discovery emphasizes the need for conservation efforts to protect the biodiversity of Australia's wildlife.
DNA sequencing tests
Greater gliders were originally believed to be part of one species, the Petauroides volans. However, using genetic sequencing tests from tissue samples taken from several greater glider museum specimens, as well as wild roaming gliders found in Queensland, Victoria, the researchers were able to confirm differences in the gliders' DNA.
two new greater glider species have been discovered in australia!— freyr (@sunfloweraidil) November 8, 2020
it was previously assumed they were of one species, but apparently greater gliders comprise of three separate species. they’re one of the world’s biggest gliding mammals. look at how cute they are! pic.twitter.com/neVdL7Klv3
It was confirmed that gliders fall into three separate species that are now called Petauroides minor and Petauroides armillatus, as well as the original Petauroides volans.
A group of researchers from Australian National University, the University of Canberra, CSIRO, and James Cook University collaborated to make the impressive discovery. It makes us wonder what other species and animal kingdom discoveries might be hiding right under our noses.