This species discovery was made during one of a number of expeditions that were carried out between 1997 and 1998. They were led by Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program and the Smithsonian’s Monitoring and Assessment of Biodiversity Program, formally known as the Man and the Biosphere Program.
The surveys took place in the Cordillera de Vilcabamba region of Peru due to its wide range of elevations and variety of habitat types which led biologists to suspect that it might hold a rich biodiversity of plants and animals some of which could be potentially new to science. The expeditions provided an initial survey of selected groups of plants and animals which helped provide support to regional conservation efforts.
The chinchilla tree rat was discovered in the Vilcabamba mountain range, very close to the world famous ruins of Macchu Picchu. The discovery was certainly very unique as typically it’s unusual to discover a species of this size (similar to that of a domestic cat). It is pale grey in color, possesses a stocky build, has large claws, and is characterized by a white stripe along its head. It is thought to be related to the chinchilla rats which are known to have been buried alongside the Incan people in their tombs.
The fact that this is a new genus (i.e. a group of individuals that have similar characteristics) made the discovery even more exciting, as it suggests there could be many more similar species just waiting to be uncovered.
Cordillera de Vilcabamba, Peruvian Andes, southeast Peru
3 expeditions in 1997 and 3 expeditions in 1998
Dr. Louise Emmons, Smithsonian Research Institute, Washington DC, USA