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Article
Published: 2007-11-14

The rediscovery and conservation status of the Bahian giant tree rat Phyllomys unicolor (Mammalia: Rodentia: Echimyidae) in the Atlantic forest of Brazil

Departamento de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Av. Marechal Campos 1468, Maruípe, 29043-900 Vitória, ES, Brazil
Departamento de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Av. Marechal Campos 1468, Maruípe, 29043-900 Vitória, ES, Brazil
Departamento de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Av. Marechal Campos 1468, Maruípe, 29043-900 Vitória, ES, Brazil
Departamento de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Av. Marechal Campos 1468, Maruípe, 29043-900 Vitória, ES, Brazil
Divisão de Genética, Instituto Nacional de Câncer, Rua André Cavalcanti 37, 4º andar, 20231-050 Rio de Janeiro, and Laboratório de Biologia e Parasitologia de Mamíferos Silvestres Reservatórios, Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Av. Brasil 4365, Manguinhos, 21040-360 Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
Rodentia Atlantic tree rats endangered species phylogeny cytochrome b

Abstract

The Bahian giant tree rat Phyllomys unicolor (Wagner) was described from a single specimen collected in the early nineteeth century, and it has not been recorded since. It was included on the Brazilian endangered species list, and considered extinct by some. Here we report the rediscovery of P. unicolor around the type locality in the Atlantic forest of southeastern Bahia, eastern Brazil. We trapped only one young individual during seven expeditions to ten localities in the area. The phylogenetic distinctiveness of this taxon based on the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene is clear, in spite of uncertainties regarding clade support. The evolutionary uniqueness of P. unicolor was confirmed by a high level of sequence divergence from congeneric species. We propose that the Bahian giant tree rat should be globally listed as Critically Endangered by the World Conservation Union. Phyllomys unicolor seems to be restricted to swamp forests and it does not occur in any protected area. Intensive field studies should be carried out in the region to locate populations and to study ecological attributes of this species. The rediscovery of P. unicolor draws attention to the biological importance and the lack of protected areas in this region of the Atlantic forest.

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