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POSTED | 13:14 PM | 29-06-2014

Tiny as a mouse but genetically linked to elephants

In the remote deserts of southern Africa, scientists have discovered a new mammal species, which resembles a mouse but carries genes that are related to elephants.

The new species of round-eared sengi, or elephant shrew, is the native of the remote northwestern region of Namibia, and is said to be the smallest known member of the 19 sengis in the order Macroscelidea. The animal, with the scientific name Macroscelides micus, has rust-colored fur, allowing it to blend in with the color of rocky surroundings.

“Genetically, Macroscelides micus is very different from other members of the genus and it’s exciting to think that there are still areas of the world where even the mammal fauna is unknown and waiting to be explored,” Jack Dumbacher, a curator of birds and mammals at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, said in a press release issued on June 26, 2014.

According to scientists, the creature weighs nearly 28 grams and measures only 7.5 inches in length, including its tail. The genetic testing of the species revealed that its DNA -- despite its smaller size -- is similar to that of much larger mammals, such as elephants. However, the only visible connection between an African elephant and this tiny shrew is its long nose, which resembles a trunk.

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