- Associated Press - Monday, June 5, 2017

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Research by a Juneau scientist has helped uncover a new species of flying squirrel.

Allison Bidlack and her six-person team released their findings about what they dubbed the Humboldt’s flying squirrel in the May 30 issue of the Journal of Mammalogy, according to a news release from the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center.

The group determined the existence of the third species using satellite data and DNA samples that Bidlack took 20 years ago while working on her master’s degree at University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Bidlack told the Juneau Empire newspaper (https://bit.ly/2rCMo19 ) that the genetically distinct animal doesn’t appear any different than other flying squirrels at first glance.

“If you saw one in the wild, you wouldn’t have a second thought about it,” Bidlack said. “(But) if you laid out the museum skins next to each other, you would see that the Humboldt are quite a bit smaller and darker.”

Before the discovery, wildlife experts believed only two species existed: the northern flying squirrel and the southern squirrel. The Juneau team had to prove that the Humboldt’s flying squirrel was not from the same lineage as known northern flying squirrel populations.

“It kind of happened in steps. We knew for at least five years ago that the genetic diversity was quite deep,” Bidlack said. “The thing that really cinched it is that squirrels that were caught in the same spot still showed genetic difference.”

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