From: Jessica Ramos, Care2, More from this Affiliate
Published July 20, 2016 07:22 AM

Which island holds the greatest concentration of mammals?

In this scary time of global species extinctions and loss of biodiversity below “safe” levels, The Field Museum recently announced some good news: Luzon Island, an island the size of the Indiana in the Philippines, holds the greatest concentration of mammals. The pressing question now is will we be able to protect this rich biodiversity in time?

Sky Islands and Sped-Up Evolution

Luzon is the largest and most important island in the Philippines for the critical role it plays in the country’s economy and political scene. Manila, the nation’s capital, and Quezon City are both located here. Important agricultural activities (like the production of rice, corn, coconuts, sugarcane, mangoes and bananas) are also prevalent on the island.

Luzon Island is unique in many ways from its mountainous landscape to the fact that it was never connected to mainland Asia. According to The Field Museum, this isolation has prompted a “sped-up version of evolution—when animals are closed off from the rest of the world, in places where there are few or no predators or competitors, they are able to branch out into special adaptations, eventually forming new species.”

Naturally, many of these species can only be found on the island. The island’s mountains created “sky islands,” or scattered pockets of habitat that led some species to diverge. We already know that Luzon Island is a biodiversity hotspot in regards to reptiles and amphibians with over 150 species — and now we’re learning about the island’s mammalian biodiversity.

A 15-year study, published in the scientific journal Frontiers of Biogeography, led by American and Filipino researchers has concluded that Luzon Island houses the “world’s greatest concentration of unique mammal species,” according to The Field Museum. Fifty-two of the known 56 non-flying mammal species can only be found on the island. In a tremendous feat, the course of the study revealed 28 previously unknown mammal species, like tiny tree-mice with whiskers so long that they touch their ankles. Sounds adorable, right?

Paradise in Peril

But it’s not all good news. Danny Balete, a Phillipines-based research associate at The Field Museum, describes the current conservation challenges in the country: “The Philippines is one of the most heavily deforested countries in the tropics; only about seven percent of the old-growth tropical forest is left. We learned that quite a few of the species are seriously threatened by habitat loss and over-hunting, but none are yet extinct.”

Continue reading at ENN affiliate, Care2. 

Image credit: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC via Wikimedia Commons. 

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