Listen to the Strange “Singing” of a Possible New Species of Mammal Found in Africa’s Montane Forests

Tree hyrax from Taita Hills, Kenya.
Credit: Hanna Rosti

A research team from the University of Helsinki has discovered a tree hyrax in the Taita Hills, Kenya, which may belong to a species previously unknown to science.

The discovery, which was part of a study of the vocalizations of nocturnal animals in the Taita Hills, was published in mid-December in the scientific journal Diversity.

Very little is known about the diversity and ecology of tree hyraxes because these animals, which look like large guinea pigs but are distant relatives of elephants, are mainly active at night in the tree canopies in Africa’s tropical forests. These animals are known to be able to scream with the strength of more than one hundred decibels, but the ‘strangled thwack’ calls that have been recorded in Taita’s forests have not been described anywhere else.

The re­cord­ings re­veal that the Taita tree hyraxes sing

The tree hyrax song may continue for more than twelve minutes, and it consists of different syllables that are combined and repeated in various ways.

“The singing animals are probably males attempting to attract females that are willing to mate,” postulates Hanna Rosti, who spent three months in Taita’s forests, following the nocturnal mammals and recording their vocalizations.

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