March 20, 2009--It seems even isolated mountain mice like to have a wash before getting their picture taken.
This recently bathed rodent is among four unexpected species likely new to science that were found high in the Peruvian Andes, scientists with the nonprofit Conservation International announced Thursday.
Expeditions between 2005 and 2008 in Peru's Cordillera Blanca, or White Range, also uncovered two new species of beetle and a rare wetlands plant.
The newfound mouse is a member of the Akodon genus, which includes many South American field mice.
Found at elevations between 9,449 feet (2,880 meters) and 15,528 feet (4,733 meters) above sea level, the new mouse is unique to some of the world's highest forests.
The roughly 3.5-inch-long (8.8-centimeter-long) mouse primarily eats insects and seeds, making it a vital player in the region's ecosystem, researchers say.
Globally, it's very rare to discover new mammal species, added team leader Constantino Aucca, president of the Association of Andean Ecosystems. (Related: "First New Mammal Found in Europe in 100 Years.")
"This is the best thing that has happened in this region in the past 10 to 20 years," Aucca said.
"Everybody's calling me a lucky guy!"