An international team of researchers found that the largest concentration of different mammal species can be found on a remote island in the Philippines. After 15 years, the research group learned that Luzon Island is now home to 56 different mammal species of which nearly 28 were spotted during the research.
The study which was published last week in Frontiers of Biogeography had its debut in 2000. Back then, biologists planned a research project because they had noticed that most mammal species on the island were unique. They were curious to learn the reason behind the phenomenon.
They acknowledged that they had no clue that the number of species would double on the course of the project.
With its 40,000 square miles, Luzon is the Southeast Asian state’s largest island and slightly larger than the U.S. state of Indiana. Study authors noted that it is strange that the island is so biologically diverse because it had never had a connection to the mainland. So, all species there lived in isolation just like those on Hawaii Islands.
Nevertheless, Luzon is much larger and older than any of the Aloha State’s islands. Study investigators believe that because the island is five time more ancient than the mentioned islands it had plenty of time to develop a large diversity of animals.
Researchers think that because of the isolation and lack of predators, animals on the island can develop more adaptations a lot quicker which often has led to new species. Additionally, the mountains on the island also helped animals there branch out in separate species.
Scientists observed that the island’s mountaintops can provide small pockets of habitat that the mammals can further adapt to. Lead author of the study Lawrence Heaney explained that the animals on mountaintops are so isolated in their “sky islands” that they eventually diverge into new species.
Heaney believes that the age of the island spurred a “huge biodiversity.” The team alone identified and classified 28 new species on the island in 15 years of research. The new species contain four species of tree mice with unusually long whiskers and five species of shrew-like mice.
The team stated that most new species were discovered high in the mountains where tropical cyclones can pour up to 15 feet of rain per year. Five of the newly found species that live on one mountaintop are unique on the island. Study authors noted that a Luzon mountain can have a larger concentration of unique animals than any European country.
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