For years, a small creature has lived undetected atop a mountain in China — until now.
The animal, a type of shrew mole, was discovered on Mount Huanggang, a 7,000-foot peak in southeast China, according to a study published Dec. 7 in the journal ZooKeys.
Five specimens were captured on the summit, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in 2022 using plastic bucket traps, researchers said. They were then euthanized and subjected to DNA analyses.
Upon analysis, the moles were found to belong to a previously unidentified species in the genus Uropsilus, which is composed of Asian shrew moles. Unlike other kinds of moles, which are known for their large, burrowing claws, shrew moles possess smaller claws as well as long tails.
The new species, which is only about 2 1/2 inches long, was named Uropsilus huanggangensis after the mountain on which it was found.
It’s distinguished from its relatives by its “very long” snout, which measures about half an inch, and is the longest of any species in the genus, researchers said.
It’s also differentiated by its “dark chocolate-brown” fur, researchers said.
It’s believed to have diverged from its relatives during the early Pleistocene, which was about 2.5 million years ago.
So far, it has only been found on Mount Huanggang, meaning its population is extremely isolated.
The discovery of the species “highlights the overlooked biodiversity of the mountains of eastern China,” researchers said.
“It is therefore crucial to conduct further comprehensive investigations and taxonomic studies on small mammals in this region to gain a deeper understanding of the biodiversity of this region,” researchers added.
Another member of the Uropsilus genus was discovered in 2021 in the Dabie Mountains of eastern China, according to a study published in the journal Zoological Research.
Worldwide, there are 42 known species of moles, most of which are aggressive burrowers that spend the majority of their time underground, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.