Scientists have discovered two previously unknown species of mole living in Turkey. These moles, which can survive extreme temperatures and harsh conditions, were confirmed to be genetically distinct from other moles. The findings increase the number of known Eurasian moles from 16 to 18. The study was conducted by researchers from Ondokuz Mayıs University, Indiana University, and the University of Plymouth. The discoveries highlight the potential underestimation of biodiversity, even in well-studied groups like mammals. The findings were published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. Guardian staff reporter reported
Scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery in Turkey, identifying two previously unknown species of moles. These creatures, found in the mountainous regions of eastern Turkey, have managed to survive extreme temperatures and harsh conditions. The DNA analysis confirmed that these moles are genetically distinct from other known species. While Britain is home to only one type of mole, known as Talpa europaea, the eastern regions of the world are home to various mole species with limited geographical ranges.
The research was conducted by a team from Ondokuz Mayıs University in Turkey, Indiana University in the US, and the University of Plymouth in the UK. The lead author of the study, Prof David Bilton from the University of Plymouth, is renowned for his previous discoveries of nearly 80 new animal species. According to him, finding new mammal species is extremely rare, as there are currently only around 6,500 identified mammal species worldwide. In comparison, there are approximately 400,000 known species of beetles, with an estimated 1 to 2 million beetle species on Earth.
Despite the similarities in appearance to other species, these newly discovered moles exhibit distinct characteristics due to their unique underground lifestyle. Living underground imposes limitations on their body size and shape, leaving only a limited number of options for moles. This study emphasizes how biodiversity can be underestimated, even in well-studied groups such as mammals.
With the addition of these two new species, the number of known Eurasian moles has increased from 16 to 18. Advanced mathematical analyses were used to study the size and shape of various bodily structures, including specimens collected in the 19th century. DNA analysis and a detailed comparison with known species confirmed the distinctiveness of these moles.
The newly identified species include Talpa hakkariensis, found in the Hakkari region of south-eastern Turkey, and Talpa davidiana tatvanensis, found near Bitlis. Talpa hakkariensis was classified as a completely new species due to its highly distinctive morphology and DNA. On the other hand, Talpa davidiana tatvanensis was classified as a subspecies of Talpa davidiana, a species identified in 1884.
The study, along with an updated phylogeny of the Talpa genus, has been published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society..