The tiny Etendeka round-eared sengi was recently discovered in Namibia — making for the most adorable addition to the order Afrotheria.
The smallest species in the elephant shrew family, the Etendeka round-eared sengi measures about seven inches in length and weighs less than an ounce. The Afrotheria order is an extremely diverse group of animals including elephants, small mammals resembling rodents, aardvarks, and manatees. Despite appearances, this new species is more closely related to elephants than mice.
The Etendeka round-eared sengi (Macroscelides micus) was described in the Journal of Mammology, endemic to the gravel plains of the northwest region of of Namibia. Elephant shrews are remarked for their small trunk-like noses.
This particular species is distinguished by its rusty-colored fur, used to blend into the red tinted landscape of the Etendeka Plateau. Its extremely small range is what attributed to its belated discovery.
There are currently nineteen known species of sengi, three of which are threatened with extinction. It is unclear whether the Etendeka sengi is subject to the same classification.
“Because of the species’ low density and restricted range, there may be some conservation concern. Direct human impacts are relatively rare within the range and are limited to low-impact game hunting and viewing by tourists,” the study authors wrote, as reported by Mongabay.
One of the sengi’s most unique characteristics is their tendency to hide in bushes, rather than burrow. Its trunk-like nose is used to hunt for insects, comprising the majority of their diet.
“Genetically, Macroscelides micus is very different from other members of the genus and it’s exciting to think that there are still areas of the world where even the mammal fauna is unknown and waiting to be explored,” stated co-author John Dumbacher.
One thing is certain — this sengi is the most adorable member of the Afrotheria order.