3 min read

People Just Discovered This Unique Animal Who Only Lives On A 'Sky Island'

“There could be many new species on these high mountainous regions ... but because they are so high, and hard to get to, knowledge of their existence is awfully limited.”

On the highest point of an island in the South China Sea lives a furry little animal no one knew existed — until now. 

The Philippines' Palawan Island is home to Mount Mantalingajan, which is known as a "sky island." Sky islands are habitats that are so high that they become isolated from the low-lying areas around them, meaning that all kinds of unknown animals might live on top — and nowhere else. 

Mount Mantalingah in the Philippines
Mount Mantalingajan, on Palawan Island in the Philippines, is a sky island. | Wikimedia Commons

Scientists have already identified two other kinds of animals who live there and nowhere else on Earth — the Palawan montane squirrel and the Palawan soft-furred mountain rat — and now they've discovered a third: the Palawanosorex muscorum, or the Palawan moss shrew.

Newly discovered Palawan moss shrew
Danilo Balete via Mongabay

"In many ways, finding this species was exactly what we had expected," Larry Heaney, curator of mammals at Chicago's Field Museum, said. Sky island habitats are replete with rare and unique species, so it's no wonder this special shrew lives there. "There could be many new species on these high mountainous regions in the Philippines, but because they are so high, and hard to get to, knowledge of their existence is awfully limited." 

This newest find took a while to definitely determine as a new species — the shrew was first spotted in 2007, and has hardly been seen since. Perhaps only one photograph exists of the little animal, who has a pointy nose, thick gray fur and special claws perfect for digging in the dirt for worms.  

Newly discovered Palawan moss shrew
Velizar Simeonovski/Field Museum

Luckily, researchers have been able to render a likeness of the little shrew — so everyone can marvel at the discovery

"There are entire countries that don't have three unique mammal species," Heaney added. "So for there to be three species on one mountain, on one island, in one country is really something."