Scientists have discovered two new species of woolly flying squirrel, whose scientific name is Eupetaurus cinereus. Through their study, the team of scientists found that there are two distinct species of woolly flying squirrel that live thousands of miles apart at some of the highest altitudes in the Himalayas. The study used morphological examinations and molecular phylogenetic analyses to differentiate between the newly discovered species.
The study of the two new species was published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, last week. The group of scientists involved in the study also included Chief Scientist and Director of the Australian Museum Research Institute (AMRI), Kristofer M. Helgen, along with his colleague, studied the mysterious species by examining museum specimens and collecting data from sightings of the species, such as from camera traps.
The two new species discovered are named the Tibetan woolly flying squirrel (Eupetaurus tibetensis) and the Yunnan woolly flying squirrel (Eupetaurus nivamons). The research mentions that Tibetan woolly flying squirrel lives in the Himalayan region that intersects India, Bhutan, and Tibet, whereas the Yunnan woolly flying squirrel is a native of the Yunnan Province of southwestern China.
The woolly squirrel is usually found in the rugged Himalayan habitat that is situated at an altitude of 16,000 feet. It is because of the remote and uninhabited region where they thrive, that very few scientists have even seen the animal in the wild. Woolly squirrels are nocturnal in nature and have grayish-brown fur, which helps them camouflage with their surroundings. This makes it even more difficult to spot. Zoologist Oldfield Thomas identified the wooly squirrel in 1888.
The research mentions that for much of the 20th century, the flying squirrel was thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered in 1994 in northern Pakistan. With this latest study, scientists have managed to provide the first taxonomic and biogeographical review of the woolly flying squirrel which until now had contained only a single species.