Game-Changing Discovery: World's New Pangolin Species Holds Key to Battling Extinction

Game-Changing Discovery: World's New Pangolin Species Holds Key to Battling Extinction

Researchers have identified a promising new pangolin species that could be a crucial ally in the battle against extinction With genomics aiding conservation efforts, this discovery expands our understanding of pangolin diversity and evolution

Join CNNs Wonder Theory science newsletter to stay updated on the latest news about interesting discoveries, scientific progress, and more, and take a journey through the universe.

Pangolins, highly targeted by poachers worldwide, face a grave threat. However, researchers believe that the identification of a previously unknown species, which holds a mystery, could aid conservationists in their battle to prevent their extinction.

Game-Changing Discovery: World's New Pangolin Species Holds Key to Battling Extinction

The frog with the ruby eyes by Jaime Culebras, Spain

The male Mindo glass frogs' calls resonated throughout the vicinity of the female frog, who peacefully perched on a leaf. These frogs exhibit remarkable confidence around humans, allowing for the possibility of setting up equipment nearby without causing disturbance. Jaime admired the captivating "ruby" eyes of this particular frog, prompting him to delicately reposition his camera, tripod, and flashes in order to capture a portrait that would accentuate their beauty.

Restricted to the northwestern region of Ecuador, specifically in the Río Manduriacu Reserve nestled in the Andean foothills, these frogs face the threat of endangerment due to the loss of their natural habitat resulting from mining and logging activities.

Location: Imbabura Province in Ecuador is where the Rio Manduriacu Reserve is situated.

Technical details: Captured with a Sony A7 III camera, combined with a Canon MP-E 65mm f2.8 1-5x macro lens, the photograph was taken at a shutter speed of 1/100 sec with an aperture setting of f11. The ISO was set to 200, and the lighting setup included two Yongnuo 560IV flashes along with two softboxes. To stabilize the camera, a Manfrotto 055MF3 tripod was used.

Jaime Culebras/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Global loss of wildlife is significantly more alarming than previously thought, according to a new study

In Asia, there are eight known pangolin species, while in Africa, there are four. These creatures, similar in appearance to anteaters, are solitary mammals that are unfortunately hunted and trafficked for their meat and unique, scale-like armor. Some believe that these scales have medicinal properties.

During a study on confiscated scales from Hong Kong and Yunnan province in China, scientists discovered genetic markers that had not been previously observed in any known pangolin species. Through genomic analysis, they identified a surprising ninth species, which has been named Manis mysteria by the research team.

The researchers published their findings in a study in the journal PNAS on Monday. Jing-Yan Hu, a research assistant at the State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-Resource at Yunnan University and coauthor of the study, expressed their surprise at the discovery of a new species from seized scales.

by providing valuable insights into their population structure, genetic diversity, and evolutionary history.

The initial suggestion from the scales' formation indicated that they were from one of the four known pangolin species in Asia. However, DNA analysis revealed that the genomic data strongly supports the existence of a new pangolin species, separate from the ones previously identified, according to Hu.

Dr. Aryn Wilder, a conservation genetics researcher at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, commented that the discovery of a new "large-bodied mammal" is uncommon. Wilder, who was not part of the research, made this statement.

Game-Changing Discovery: World's New Pangolin Species Holds Key to Battling Extinction

An analysis of contraband pangolin scales revealed genetic markers not seen in known species, researchers said. The newly discovered pangolin was named Manis mysteria.

A 2017 breakthrough in genomics revealed the existence of a previously unrecognized species of orangutan, highlighting the rarity of such discoveries. Wilder remarked that while such findings are not unheard of, they are certainly uncommon, and expressed confidence in the credibility of the pangolin research results.

"I thought the methods were solid and their findings were pretty conclusive," she said.

Expanded understanding of pangolin diversity and evolution

Not much is known about Manis mysteria, but now that its existence is confirmed, conservationists can focus on safeguarding it.

The identification of a ninth species holds great significance, according to Hu. This revelation significantly enhances our understanding of pangolin diversity and evolution. Hu also emphasized that this discovery highlights the need for increased conservation efforts and collaborative measures to address the issues surrounding the trade in pangolins.

"The discovery holds immense significance," stated Wilder in an email. "The recognition of this novel species will enable conservationists to channel their efforts towards preserving it from extinction."

Game-Changing Discovery: World's New Pangolin Species Holds Key to Battling Extinction

The tissue samples were taken from a 130-year-old Tasmanian tiger specimen stored at room temperature at the Swedish Museum of Natural History (pictured here.)

Emilio Mármol Sánchez

The first instance of extracting RNA from an extinct species has been achieved by scientists. Wilder emphasized that when a species becomes extinct, its distinctive biodiversity is forever gone. The identification of a potentially endangered pangolin species and further investigation into its habitat, behavior, life cycle, and conservation status will enable the development of targeted conservation approaches to preserve its existence.

Due to its minimal genetic variation from other pangolins, Manis mysteria is currently categorized as a "cryptic" species.

Identifying cryptic species solely based on their appearance is challenging, so the recent advancement of scale testing for pangolins is advantageous for conservation scientists. This breakthrough allows them to distinguish between different pangolin species accurately. Wilder stated, "Frequently, a rare species is mistakenly identified as a more prevalent one. However, with the continuous progress in DNA technologies, our ability to identify cryptic species is improving."

That means the recent revelation could just be the start. "We also expect to find other pangolin species," Hu said.