Two Hedgehog Species are Discovered in the Philippines
In the thickest jungles of the mountains in eastern in Mindanao, something soft with a golden-brown fur scurries on the forest floor: a hedgehog completely new to science. Podogymnura intermedia lives on two places in the world: Mount Hamiguitan and Mount Kampalili, which are on the southeast part of Mindanao, Philippines. These two mountains are largely unstudied, and scientists are only beginning to unwrap the mysteries surrounding the two mountains.
Podogymnura intermedia, one of the two new hedgehog species discovered in the Philippines in 2023
Mount Kitanglad, which is located in north-central Mindanao 200 kilometers away from Mount Haniguitan and Mount Kampalili, is also hiding a hedgehog species of its own. Podogymnura minima, anothher species of Philippine hedgehog, was recently discovered on the mountain.
The two species are so new, they don’t even have a common name.
The new discoveries were published in Zootaxa. The study is led by renowned Filipino biologist and zoologist Danilo S. Balete, who is known for his work on endemic Philippine mammal species. He is joined by reputed zoologists Eric Rickart, Dakota Rowsey, Lawrence R. Heany, Roselyn Quidlat, and Link Olson.
Podogymnura intermedia has streaked golden-brown fur and a pointed nose similar to that of a shrew. Its streaked fur is its distinguishing characteristic from similar species Podogymnura truei and Podogymnura minima, also found in Mindanao, but whose fur has tiny dark spots. Structurally, P. intermedia’s body size is similar to Podogymnura truei and Podogymnura minima.
Podogymnura minima was formerly considered a subspecies of P. truei but molecular phylogenetic analysis revealed it is a separate species of its own and is the smallest among all Podogymnura species. The discovery of two new species of hedgehogs in Mindanao highlights how very little is known about the extent of Philippine biodiversity.
“These results further increase the rich diversity of mammals on Mindanao, and underscore the importance of the eastern Mindanao highlands as a likely important but little-studied center of Philippine mammalian diversity,” wrote the authors.
“Our results also have implications for the biogeography of mammalian endemism and the extent of mammalian diversity on Mindanao, a large (ca. 98,000 km2) oceanic island whose mammalian fauna has been insufficiently studied,” they added.
The Philippines is considered to have one of the world’s highest rate of biodiversity.
Eric Rickart, who is one of the authors of the study, was once shocked to discover the very high biodiversity in the country. In 2021, after finishing a 15-year expedition to discover as many species in the Philippines as possible, he remarked about how some species are so unique they are found in just one mountain and nowhere else. “That's more unique species on one mountain than in any country in continental Europe. The concentration of unique biodiversity in the Philippines is really staggering,” Rickart told Phys.org.