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May 9, 2006

CCNY BIOLOGY PROFESSOR ROBERT ANDERSON DISCOVERS NEW RODENT SPECIES

NEW YORK, May 9, 2006 -- Dr. Robert P. Anderson, Assistant Professor of Biology at The City College of New York, has discovered a new species of rodent found only in the northwestern mountains of Costa Rica.

The description of the new montane species of spiny pocket mouse appears in the March 16 issue of American Museum Novitates, a journal published by the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It was coauthored with Dr. Robert M. Timm of the University of Kansas.

The new discovery belongs to the Heteromyinae group, one of three subfamilies of the rodent family Heteromyidae, whose granivorous (seed-eating) members live in a wide variety of habitats from deserts of the western United States to rainforests in northern South America. There are two genera of heteromyines, Heteromys and Liomys, alive today. Prior to Dr. Anderson’s finding, eight species of Heteromys were recognized. 

This latest addition to the science world is dubbed Heteromys nubicolens, or “Cloud-dwelling Spiny Pocket Mouse” because of its distribution in the cloud forests of the Cordillera de Tilarán and Cordillera de Guanacaste ranges in Costa Rica.

Heteromys nubicolens is the fourth species of mammal new to science that Dr. Anderson has named. Over the past decade, an average of approximately 20 new species a year have been described worldwide.

According to Dr. Anderson’s research, “(Heteromys nubicolens ) displays cranial proportions and measurements distinct from those of H. desmarestianus (a known species of Heteromys found in adjacent regions of Costa Rica), as well as differences from all other recognized species of the genus.”

A graduate of Kansas State University, where he earned his B.A., and the University of Kansas, where he received his Ph.D., Dr. Anderson conducts bio-geographic studies at the interface between ecology and evolution. His current research program focuses on developing computer-based methods of modeling species’ geographic ranges using occurrence records and environmental data. 

While such techniques have general application to bio-geography and conservation, Neo-tropical mammals are Professor Anderson’s taxonomic and geographic specialty.

“Taxonomic research forms the basis for the rest of biology, as well as for conservation. Only with information regarding the true species in nature, can we plan effectively to protect the most important regions of biological diversity,” Dr. Anderson said.

About The City College of New York

For over 158 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. Over 12,400 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Science, the School of Architecture, the School of Education, the Grove School of Engineering, the Center for Worker Education and the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.

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