Scientists Discover Two New Species of Huge Flying Squirrels in the Mountains

Eliza Gray

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The Himalayan region has been home to some incredibly resilient creatures over the years. From yaks to Bengal tigers, countless animals have braved the elements of the mountainous landscape, most of them agile enough to maneuver the rocky terrain. But two new species have been discovered in the region and left researchers dumbfounded.

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So what were the latest mountain inhabitants added to the list? That would be two subspecies of the woolly flying squirrel (or, Eupetaurus cinereus to be specific). According to National Geographic, these brave rodents were some of the rarest mammals on the planet. They were even considered wiped out until confirmed sightings started up in the 90s. The flying squirrels garnered interest amongst scientists and researchers alike for their relatively large size. Their stature was compared to that of a house-cat but still maintained the ability to fly from tree to tree.

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The discovery was thanks to Kirstofer Helgen, a scientist based in Australia, and his co-workers. He and his team were first drawn to the mountains over their interest in the elusive rodent. But their fascination took them on the ride of a lifetime. To the shock of Helgen and his crew, the woolly flying squirrel was connected to two different subspecies, that were separated by a good portion of the continent. The Tibetan woolly flying squirrel and the Yunnan woolly flying squirrel had thousands of miles between them, and yet somehow came in contact. Safe to say, the science community was speechless by the news.

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"This discovery is so exciting," said John Koprowski from the University of Wyoming. "That there were two relatively large animals that had gone unreported shows how little we know about the natural world." With little explanation available to explain the phenomenon, researchers were both fascinated and humbled by the news.

With its sprawling rocky landscape, the Himilaya is not short of surprises when it comes to new discoveries. But this recent species news concerning the intersection of flying squirrels from Tibet and China has rocked the science world. And safe to say these cat-sized soarers have brought more questions than answers.