Researchers recently discovered five unique species of soft-coated, spine-free hedgehogs. Two entirely new species were found in Southeast Asia, while three others, previously considered subspecies, have been upgraded to full species status.
Unlike their spiky relatives, these hedgehogs are recognized for their furry appearance. Initially grouped under the Hylomys group, DNA studies have now distinguished their unique genetic backgrounds. This discovery led to their reclassification, which was also supported by examining physical characteristics in museum specimens.
The research was conducted by a team from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and led by Dr. Arlo Hinckley, the study’s lead author. He believes this study proves that new findings are still possible, even within extensively studied categories like mammals.
The newly-discovered Hylomys vorax species resides in the tropical rainforests on the slopes of Mount Leuser in Northern Sumatra. Measuring approximately 12 centimeters in length, these hedgehogs feature dark brown fur, slender snouts, and completely black tails.
The H. macarong, another species newly identified in the tropical rainforests of South Vietnam, gets its name from the Vietnamese term for “vampire,” or Ma cà rồng, which is a nod to the males’ elongated, fang-like teeth.
This species is slightly larger than the Hylomys vorax, measuring around 14 centimeters, and also sports dark brown fur. As for the purpose of their distinctive fangs, that will require further research.
The remaining three species, which were once classified as subspecies of Hylomys suillus, have been reclassified as distinct species: H. dorsalis, H. Maxi, and H. peguensis.
H. dorsalis inhabits the mountainous regions of Northern Borneo, while H. maxi is found in the mountains of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. Both species measure about 14 centimeters in length, but H. dorsalis is notable for a unique dark stripe running from its head to mid-body.
The slightly smaller H. peguensis, about 13 centimeters long and with a somewhat yellower fur, is indigenous to various Southeast Asian countries, including Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand.