MOLUCCAS, INDONESIA: Tufts of harsh, bristly hair and a white tail tip are among the defining features of a new rodent species discovered in Indonesia.

The Spiny Boki Mekot Rat was found in the mountain forests of Halmahera, in the Moluccas (Maluku) archipelago. It was from these islands that Alfred Russel Wallace wrote to Charles Darwin, outlining his theory of evolution. The region is rich in biodiversity but its wildlife is under threat from logging and mining firms.

Scientists hope the new mammal discovery will encourage greater exploration and conservation of the area. Their findings are reported in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. Under threat

The new rat was found in a remote, hilly region of Halmahera by an expedition team from the University of Copenhagen and Indonesia’s Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense.

They laid traps baited with roasted coconut and peanut butter, placed on tree trunks and at burrow openings. Among their findings was a previously unknown rodent with coarse, brownish grey fur on its back, and a whitish grey belly.

By analysing the rat’s DNA and physical features such as its skull and teeth, they determined it was not only a new species, but an entirely new genus.

They named it Halmaheramys bokimekot after nearby Boki Mekot, a mountainous area under ecological threat due to mining and deforestation. “This new rodent highlights the large amount of unknown biodiversity in this region and the importance of its conservation,” said lead researcher Pierre-Henri Fabre, from the Centre for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen.

“It’s very important that zoologists visit these islands to explore further.” Only six of the new rodents have so far been captured: three adult males and three females.–BBC