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Planet Earth

Where the Running Rodents Play

By Preiser PreiserJanuary 1, 1997 6:00 AM


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This cuddly looking creature is a Panay cloudrunner, a nocturnal rodent found in misty mountain treetops in the Philippines. It was described last February by two zoologists, Robert Kennedy at the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and Pedro Gonzales at the National Museum of the Philippines. Residents of Panay Island have been familiar with the animal, but Kennedy and Gonzales found a live specimen only a few years ago, and it took them this long to complete the taxonomic spadework needed to pronounce it a new species.

The Panay cloudrunner (Crateromys heaneyi) is the second largest of the four known cloudrunner species, measuring just over two feet from its nose to the tip of its long, catlike tail. Although its diet of bananas, guavas, corn, papayas, and assorted leaves resembles that of other cloudrunner species, its molars are distinct, as is the shape of its skull. Unfortunately, severe deforestation on Panay threatens the survival of the species, which is now confined to a mountain range on the western part of the island. The naturalists had pretty much written off the island because of the almost total lack of forest, says Kennedy, so they overlooked this area.

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