Mesechinus orientalis – the New Hedgehog Species from China

Scientists from Anhui Normal University have identified a new species of hedgehog, Mesechinus orientalis, in eastern China. The genus Mesechinus was previously thought to be limited to northern China and adjacent regions, but the discovery of Mesechinus orientalis in eastern China expands the known range of the genus.

Characteristics and Distribution

  1. Physical Features:
    • Mesechinus orientalis is a small-bodied hedgehog, resembling Mesechinus hughi but smaller than other Mesechinus species.
    • Shortest spines in the genus (1.8-2 cm) with distinctive color rings: white at the base, a black ring, a narrow light ring, and a black tip.
    • Brown nose with black whiskers, ears are small and nearly the same length as surrounding spines.
  2. Geographical Isolation:
    • Found in scrubland and subtropical broad-leaf evergreen forests in southern Anhui and northwestern Zhejiang, eastern China.
    • Geographically isolated by at least 1,000 km from its congeners, making it the southeasternmost species of Mesechinus.
  3. Sexual Dimorphism:
    • Males generally have gray pelage, while most females exhibit reddish-brown pelage.

Evolutionary Insights

  1. Divergence and Migration:
    • Mesechinus orientalis is a sister to the lineage of Mesechinus hughi and Mesechinus wangi, diverging approximately 1.1 million years ago.
    • Divergences occurred in the Middle Pleistocene (0.74-1.1 million years ago), influenced by increased cooling and aridification during the Middle Pleistocene transition.
  2. Migration Routes:
    • The study suggests that cooling and aridification facilitated the migration of ancestors, leading to the split of Mesechinus species.
    • The Dabie Mountains and mountainous areas of southern Anhui and northwestern Zhejiang likely acted as migration routes and glacial refugia.
  3. Evolutionary History:
    • The discovery contributes to understanding the macroevolution of the genus Mesechinus, with fossils dating back to the Early Pleistocene near Taijiaping village in Shanxi province.



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