Newly Described Rat from New Guinea named "Top Discovery” for 2016
The Admiralties Rat, found on Manus Island, part of the Papua New Guinea Admiralty Islands group, has been named as one of the top scientific discoveries of 2016 in the Year in Science issue of Discover Magazine.
The rodent, newly described by KU mammalogists Robert Timm, curator emeritus, and research affiliate Ronald Pine and colleagues is named Rattus detentus. It is larger than most of its relatives, and is one of the most poorly known rodents of the Melanesian Archipelago. It is characterized by large, powerful incisors together with small molars, suggesting that it uses its front teeth to break open hard nuts. The species has probably been isolated on the island for several thousand years.
Scientists had long known that an unnamed rat must occur on Manus, based on teeth and jaws from a several thousand-year-old archaeological site where early inhabitants left the remains of animals they used for food.
The Admiralties Rat is known from only three modern-day specimens, two of which are held in KU Biodiversity Institute collections. More recent efforts by zoologists to find a living population have been unsuccessful. This endemic species may be threatened by destruction of forests for human habitation and introduction of feral cats to the island. Environmental issues stemming from the refugee crisis on Manus Island were highlighted by the mammalogists’ naming of the species, who called it detentus to make a statement regarding the people being unwillingly detained for long periods on Manus by the Australian government.