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NC researcher helps trap 'lost species' — the Somali Sengi, a mouse-sized species with a trunk-like nose that wags

NC researcher helps trap 'lost species' — the Somali Sengi, a mouse-sized species with a trunk-like nose that wags

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Somali Sengi

A North Carolina researcher was among those who helped to "rediscover" the Somali Sengi.

RALEIGH — A tiny mammal with a long nose was considered a "lost species" — until a North Carolina scientist joined the effort to trap it.

A Duke Lemur Center researcher helped to track down the mouse-sized Somali Sengi, an animal that experts hadn't spotted in almost 50 years, according to an article published in the journal PeerJ.

The animal, also called the Somali Elephant-shrew, was known to live in the Horn of Africa, scientists said. But without any recent sightings, the species ended up on the radar of Global Wildlife Conservation, which compiles a list of species that may be extinct, according to its website.

To find the animal, Duke researcher Steven Heritage teamed up with zoologists from the California Academy of Sciences and Association Djibouti Nature, according to officials.

Scientists set up more than 1,200 traps and ended up finding eight Somali Sengi, Duke University said in a news release.

"With some modeling of its distribution and potential habitats, they also concluded that the Somali Sengi is a lot more common than people had thought with a much larger range that includes hot, dry and rocky parts of Somalia, Djibouti and maybe even neighboring Ethiopia," the release said.

The team also studied the critters' bodies and genetic information, which revealed that wildlife experts had misclassified the mammals in the past, results show. Researchers put out a call for the animal to go into a new genus, which would switch the animal from the scientific name Elephantulus revoilii to Galegeeska revoilii.

Somali Sengi grow to be roughly 9 to 12 inches long, with "trunk-like" noses that wag, according to the African Wildlife Foundation and other websites. They are closely related to other species with protruding noses, including aardvarks and elephants, Duke officials said.

The Duke Lemur Center is in Durham and part of the university's campus. It is home to more than a dozen species of the primates, constituting "the world's largest and most diverse population of lemurs outside their native Madagascar," its website said.

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