Two new species of greater glider, a cat-size marsupial that lives in the forests of Australia, have been discovered Down Under after scientists ran DNA tests on new tissue samples of the animals. A new study published in Nature’s public access Scientific Reports journal details the findings.
“Australia’s biodiversity just got a lot richer,” said Professor Andrew Krockenberger of James Cook University, who was part of the research team. “It’s not every day that new mammals are confirmed, let alone two new mammals.”
Scientists have long suspected the glider might be several species, though there was never sufficient proof, he added in a news release from the university. There were hints such as differences in their size, color and physiology, which had been chalked up to a subspecies rather than an entirely different group.
“It’s really exciting to find this biodiversity under our noses,” study researcher Kara Youngentob told The West Australian in an interview.
“The division of the greater glider into multiple species reduces the previous widespread distribution of the original species, further increasing conservation concern for that animal and highlighting the lack of information about the other greater glider species,” she continued.
As CNET reports, the nocturnal greater glider typically sleeps inside hollow trees at nighttime and roams the forest at night searching for plants to eat. True to its name, the animal is able to glide an impressive distance of up to 328 feet (100 meters) in the air.
“There has been speculation for a while that there was more than one species of greater glider but now we have proof from the DNA. It changes the whole way we think about them,” study researcher Denise McGregor told The Guardian.
The discovery of the two new greater glider species also sparked interest from animal lovers on social media. “And just like that, the world became a lot better,” one wrote.