A startling discovery of new species of flying squirrel in North America have been made by scientists. Known as Humboldt's flying squirrel, or Glaucomys oregonensis, this little creature has managed to remain out of plain sight for hundreds of years.
This creature is known as a "cryptic" species - a species that was previously thought to be another, known species because the two look similar.
The new flying squirrel species inhabits the Pacific Coast region of North America. Until now, these coastal populations were simply thought to be the already-known northern flying squirrel, researchers said.
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Jim Kenagy, professor at the University of Washington in the US stated, ""For 200 years we thought we had only had one species of flying squirrel in the Northwest - until we looked at the nuclear genome, in addition to mitochondrial DNA, for the first time".
This new discovery of the Humboldt's flying squirrel is the 45th known species of flying squirrel in the world, researchers said.
According to them, what are now three species of flying squirrels in North and Central America are all small, nocturnally-active, gliding squirrels that live in woodland habitats.
These squirrels do not actually fly like bats or birds. Instead, they glide from tree to tree by extending furred membranes of skin that stretch from the wrist of the forearm to the ankle on the hind leg.
Their feather-like tail provides extra lift and also aids in steering.
"It was a surprising discovery", said Kenagy, co-author of the study that was published in the Journal of Mammalogy.