The never-ending tale of the hunt for the tricky tree-climbing mini anteaters of Brazil.
For years, researchers thought there was just one anteater species, that is until one relentless lady found 6 more in hiding.
A biologist named Flavia Miranda was studying anteaters in Brazil and noticed something strange in some of their fur. She "began to see differences between the colors of the population of the Amazon and the Atlantic forest."
Well, after over 10 years and 10 expeditions of Miranda and her team searching jungles and museums in South America, they collected DNA samples from 313 anteaters; 280 from museums and 33 from wild ones.
They passed out flyers to the local native peoples asking for their help finding these tricky tree-climbers and their hard work paid off... eventually.
"It took us two years to capture the first animal," Miranda says.
Since these lived high up in the trees, only came out at night, and are pretty small you can imagine the difficulties of trying to find and capture some specimens for live study. The average person might have given up the hunt but Miranda was inspired and on a mission.
These furry little animals seem to have followed ants up the trees, finding enough food to happily stay up there while avoiding larger predators down below. They're only 20" long and super cute.
Basically, they found smaller tree-climbing species with different silky fur.
"This is a good example of the startling results that can emerge when a widespread animal that has hardly ever been studied in any detail is examined with modern techniques for the first time," says Kristofer Helgen, a mammalogist at the University of Adelaide in Australia. "I won't be surprised if future research on these beautiful animals shows even more overlooked species," he says.
Now, I don't know about you, but I'm more curious as to how these researchers were able to spend 10 years roaming the Brazillian forests looking for some little anteaters. This seems like quite an expense over that long period of time and for an, arguably, insignificant discovery of more kinds of anteaters. Anyway, I'm sure Miranda wasn't the only one relieved when she finally found them.
Miranda's team measured the anteaters' skulls and recorded the various colorings of their silky fur to divide the groups they found. So, in total, the team discovered 6 new species that were previously overlooked.
Not surprisingly, the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified C. didactylus as a species of least concern, because they're found all over the place. However, now that this main anteater family tree is divided into more branches, each one may be in a uniquely dangerous situation.
But not to worry, Miranda is excited to continue her grand adventure to protect these newfound animals from deforestation and pollution.
"The work is just beginning," she says.