A new species of Rattus (Rodentia: Muridae) from Manus Island, Papua New Guinea

Robert M. Timm, Valter Weijola, Ken P. Aplin, Stephen C. Donnellan, Tim F. Flannery, Vicki Thomson, Ronald H. Pine

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15 Citations (Scopus)


We describe a new species of Rattus, from 3 modern specimens collected on Manus Island in the Admiralty Group, Papua New Guinea, between 2002 and 2012. Subfossil specimens of early to late Holocene age from the Pamwak archaeological site on Manus Island are referred to the new species on morphological criteria; these confirm the species as a long-term resident of Manus Island. The new species is distinguished by its combination of large size; short tail; dorsal pelage that is coarse, spiny, and dark, with prominent black guard hairs; and sharply contrasting cream ventral pelage. Based on its overall body form, the species is almost certainly terrestrial. The dentition combines robust incisors with relatively small molars and the cranium displays a distinctive mélange of characters - including an elongate and anteriorly expanded rostrum and a mesopterygoid fossa that is narrow anteriorly and broadens to the rear. Sequence data from the mitochondrial control region and 3 nuclear genes place the new species as a highly divergent member of the Australo-Papuan Rattus radiation, with no identified close relative among sampled taxa. Morphological comparisons are made between the new species and other pertinent species of Rattus from the region, including R. sanila, a species known only from Late Pleistocene fossil to Late Holocene subfossil remains from an archaeological site on New Ireland. The conservation status of the new species is discussed in the light of a recent survey that failed to locate surviving populations in 2 areas of natural forest on Manus Island. Further survey work is urgently needed to identify any surviving populations and to assess the role of potential threats to the species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-878
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


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