New species of mammal discovered from Narcondam Island

A team of Scientists and researchers from Zoological Survey of India, Andaman and Nicobar Regional Centre, Port Blair and Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata have recently discovered a new insectivorous species of mammal from India after 43 years.

Dr. Chandrakasan Sivaperuman, Scientist-E & Officer-in-Charge, informed that this new species, Crocidura narcondamica, is reported from the Narcondam Island. The new White-toothed shrew species is named after the type locality, Narcondam Island regarded as a volcanic island situated in the Andaman and Nicobar Archipelago, India: Narcondam Shrew Crocidura norcondamica. The Narcondam Island (13.45° N 94.27° E) is located about 130 km east of North Andaman, and about 446 km of the west coast of Myanmar. The island covers an area of 6.8 km2 and the highest peak (volcanic cone) is 710 m above sea level; however, the base lies approximately 1500 m beneath the sea. This isolated island is part of a volcanic arc that continues northward from Sumatra to Myanmar. The climatic condition of this small, conical island can be defined as a humid, tropical, and coastal. The island is thickly vegetated, bordered by cliffs on the southern side and crested by three peaks. The forest types can broadly be categorized as three zones: wet evergreen on the slopes and highest zones of the volcano, moist deciduous or semi-evergreen at lower elevations, and littoral forest along the coastline.

The new species, Crocidura narcondamica is of medium size (head and body lengths) and has a distinct external morphology (darker grey dense fur with a thick, darker tail) and craniodental characters (braincase is rounded and elevated with weak lambdoidal ridges) in comparison to other close congeners. This is the first discovery of a shrew from this volcanic island and increases the number of White-toothed shrew (genus Crocidura) species in India from 11 to 12, and the first shrew species from Narcondam Island. These shrews, are small and mouse-like mammals and live in sub-leaf stratum in the forests. Insects are the primary diet of these animals. Thus, it is really important for organisms in the forest ecosystem for controlling the insects.

In the first discovery of genus Crocidura from India Miller (1912) described Crocidura andamanensis and Crocidura nicobarica, each based on a single specimen collected on the South Andaman Island and Great Nicobar Island, respectively. Subsequently, again based upon a single specimen Tomas described Crocidura hispida from the north and middle Andaman Island and Chakraborty described Crocidura jenkinsi from Mt. Harriet National Park, South Andaman Island. The discovery of Crocidura jenkinsi on South Andaman Island by former ZSI Scientist, Shri Chakraborty during 1978 was the latest discovery of a Crocidura species from India.

The findings of the research have been recently published in the journal Scientific Reports (Discovery of a new mammal species (Soricidae: Eulipotyphla) from Narcondam volcanic island, India) in the current issue of Volume 11, Article number: 9416 (2021) of https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-88859-4 an International Journal of Scientific Reports, peer-reviewed multidisciplinary science and technology.