Deep in the forests of Madagascar German scientists have discovered three new species of the world's smallest primate, the mouse lemur. But the habitat these tiny creatures call home is now being threatened by mass deforestation.
Three years have passed since three new species of mouse lemur -- mircocebus bongolavensis, microcebus danfossi and microcebus lokobensis were discovered by German scientists in the forests of Madagascar. Nevertheless, a lot of time can pass before an animal species is officially "baptized" with a scientific name. The road to obtaining an official Latin name is a long one -- filled with pitfalls and hurdles that involve a painstaking research process into the new species that ends with a peer-reviewed study published in a scientific journal. Only after other scientists review the research, corrections are made and it is successfully defended can the scientific baptism finally be completed.
Three species of mouse lemurs have now put this procedure behind them and they are officially the newest species of the primate world. Working together with colleagues in Madagascar, scientists at the Institute for Zoology at the University of Veterinary Medicine (TiHo) in Hanover, Germany discovered and classified the animals. The results of their research will be published in the forthcoming issue of the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.
In an expedition that began in 2003 and ended last year, the research team went to Madagascar to study the dispersal patterns of lemurs. The group visited the island between May and October -- the dry season -- to observe the populations. But the work was by no means easy. "The forests there are shrinking and we had difficulties working out where the mouse lemurs were," TiHo's Ute Radespiel told SPIEGEL ONLINE.