A new species of rodent, with long whiskers, stubby legs and a dense hairy tail, has been discovered in Laos. Though the animal resembles other animals like squirrels, rats, guinea pigs and chinchillas, it is different from all of them, according to the us-based Wildlife Conservation Society (wcs), which is working in the country to stop illegal wildlife trade.
The local people call the animal kha-nyou. It was discovered by wcs scientists in a hunter's market in Laos: "It was for sale on a table next to some vegetables. I knew immediately it was something I had never seen before," says Robert Timmins, a wcs researcher. "For all we know, this could be the last remaining mammal family left to be discovered," he added. Another wcs scientist, Mark Robinson, discovered some other kha-nyou specimens caught by hunters and also identified some bone fragments in an owl pellet. Kha-nyou's differences with other rodents in skull and bone structure and dna reveal that it diverged from them millions of years ago. This nocturnal vegetarian gives birth to one offspring at a time.
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