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Tech Culture: A scientist and a shrew

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Tech Culture: A scientist and a shrew

2:14 /

A California Academy of Sciences researcher trekked through the rain forests of Tanzania in search of the <i>Rhynchocyon udzungwensis</i>, the newest mammal to join the elephant shrew group. They may not look like elephants, but they do have evolutionary ties to the pachyderm going back 100 million years in Africa. Scientists describe this species as having the legs of an antelope, the snout of an anteater, and the tail of a rat. CNET News.com's Kara Tsuboi brings us the first look at the cute little guy.

[ Music ] ^M00:00:03 >> Galen Rathbun: Wipe your mind clean and you have to think of elephant-shrews as a cross between a little miniature antelope, long legs and an anteater, long nose, long tongue. And then of course, they've got a tail that's kind of rat like. >> That's Galen Rathbun, from San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences, who helped discover this new species of elephant-shrew. >> Galen Rathbun: It's not very common to find new mammals these days. I don't keep a tally, but maybe 10 or 12 a year. >> In fact, this is the first species from the giant elephant-shrew family to be discovered in 126 years. >> Galen Rathbun: When you come up with something like the new one, the gray-faced sengi, that's so obviously different, it's exciting, because it's something that escapes the notice of biologists up until now. >> Here are the vitals. Its scientific name is... >> Galen Rathbun: Rhynochocyon udzungwensis. >> It lives in the rainforest of Tanzania, digs in the ground and eats invertebrates, has teeth but doesn't bite, weighs in at a pound and a half, can run fast but doesn't climb, and is monogamous. >> Galen Rathbun: It's a--kind of an esoteric group that a lot of people outside of Africa just don't know about. But that makes it even more exciting. >> Esoteric, for sure. But still you're asking why is it called the elephant-shrew? >> Galen Rathbun: So with molecular genetics, they've found out that the elephant-shrews, if you go back far enough in Africa, have a common ancestor with other African animals, such as the elephant, the sea cow, the aardvark. >> First discovered in the Udzungwa Mountains in 2005, scientists used satellite imagery to determine the shrew's habitat is only 120 square miles. >> Galen Rathbun: One uses high tech now a days to take a shortcut. In the old days you had to walk around every square mile of forest to see if your new species was there or not. That we could in a few months, whereas in the old days, it might take you several years. >> Galen estimates there's about 20,000 of these elephant-shrews living in Tanzania, which may sound like a lot, but given the country's population boom, there could be some real conservation concerns in the future. I'm Kara Tsuboi reporting for CNET News.com with elephant-shrew. ^M00:02:08 [ Music ]

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