Zaglossus attenboroughi, T. F. Flannery & C. P. Groves, 1998

T. F. Flannery & C. P. Groves, 1998, A revision of the genus Zaglossus (Monotremata, Tachyglossidae), with description of new species and subspecies, Mammalia 62 (3), pp. 367-396: 387-389

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Zaglossus attenboroughi

n. sp.

Zaglossus attenboroughi   n. sp.

(Appendix 1, Figs 10 - 11)

Holotype: RMNH 17301. Skin, dentary and fragmentary rostral region of skull of an adult, sex not recorded. Collected “ Oost-top, Berg Rara, op 1,600 m ”, Cyclops Mountains. Dutch New Guinea, on July 4th, 1961 by P. van Royen.

Etymology: For Sir David Attenborough, who has contributed greatly to the public appreciation of the New Guinean fauna and flora.

Diagnosis: The smallest member of the genus, with a beak length (measured on the skin, see below) of 70 mm (as opposed to x = 99.1 ± 13.6, range 8Î.0 - 127.5, N = 23 for all other Zaglossus   ), and a dentary length of 107.5 mm (x = 138.1, range 118.0 - 157.0, N = 22 for all other Zaglossus   combined). The short beak is also straighter than in other Zaglossus   . There are 5 claws on each foot. The fur is shorter, denser and finer than in other Zaglossus   and differs from that of other species in being raw umber dorsally and fawn ventrally.

Distribution: The higher peaks of the Cyclops Mountains near Jayapura, extreme northeastern Irian Jaya ( Fig. 1).

Description: The type and only specimen consists of a complete skin and the rostral portions of a badly crushed cranium ( Fig. 10). The fleshy part of the beak (measured along ils dorsal edge, from the tip to the margin of the fur) is 70 mm long. The beak is straight, but has been broken and possibly somewhat distorted ( Fig. 10). Nonetheless, it it likely that it was straighter (and certainly shorter) in life than in other Zaglossus   .

In overall size, the specimen conforms closely with Tac / iyglossus aculeatus   . being much smaller than other Zaglossus   . On the basis of comparison with similar-sized ï'achyglossus. its weight is estimated to have been approximately two to three kilograms.

There are five claws on each foot. There is a small spur (4.4 mm long x 1.7 mm wide at its base) present on the left ankle. The base is shielded by a fleshy tubercle. A remnant of a similar spur is present on the right foot. These spurs suggest that the specimen is male.

The fur is dense, very fine and short, in all of these characteristics differing from other Zaglossus   (where the fur is longer, coarser and less dense). It is a distinctive brown colour (close to raw umber) unmatched in any other Zaglossus   , which vary from reddish brown to black, with an occasional very pale variant. The venter is fawn, again differing from any other member of the genus. The fur of the feet, tail and forehead are yellowish in colour.

There are two hair whorls on the ventral surface on either side of the neck. The short fur covers the spines in the middle of the back, which are extremely sparse, and large portions of the midback entirely lack spines. The spines are narrow (averaging 1.6 mm in diameter at their thickest point) and are all whitish in colour. The thickest spines occur near the rump. Spines are absent from the ventral surface.

Only small fragments of the skull remain, the most important being the dentaries, a crushed rostrum and portions of the orbital and frontal regions. The region of the naso frontal suture is well preserved, and although portions of the suture are visible through the slightly translucent bone, the suture is entirely closed, indicating that the specimen is adult ( Fig. 12). The sutures present on other fragments are all closed. The dentary differs from juveniles in the form of its articulation (which is well-defined and arched sharply above the horizontal ramus), and in its more gradual taper. The articular facet is more rounded than in other Zaglossus   examined.

Discussion: This species is sample 6 in our analysis. The small size and narrow spines of the holotype made us suspect initially that it might be juvenile. Examination of the cranial fragments and X-ray of the feet soon convinced us, however, that it is adult. Even older subadult Zaglossus   (such as AM M5993 ( Z. hartoni bartoni   ), which has a dentary length of 120, retains open sutures and a juvenile-like dentary structure. Furthermore, juveniles typically have very long fur. This is in contrast to the short, dense fur of the holotype.

The discovery of Zaglossus attenboroughi   in the higher peaks of the Cyclops Mountains was unexpected. The nearest populations of Zaglossus   (Z. b. clianiomli - the largest of all Zaglossus   ) occupy the mid-elevation forests above 1,300 metres in elevation on the northern slopes of the central cordillera, which lies some 200 km to the south. Zaglossus   is certainly absent from the North Coast Ranges, including the Bewani Mountains (which are no more than 50 km east of the Cyclops Mountains) as extensive survey work (by T.F.F. and others) has failed to reveal its presence there, and echidna-like animals are unknown to local hunters.

The occurrence of Zaglossus attenboroughi   in the Cyclops Mountains is congruent with a number of endemics which are restricted to one or more peaks in the North Coast Ranges. These include Petaurus   abid'u Dendrolagus scottae   and Paraleptomys rufilatus   . There are no other species of mammals, however, which are endemic solely to the Cyclops Mountains. It seems possible that Z. attenboroughi   was possibly once widespread in the North Coast Ranges, and has found its last refuge in the Cyclops.