Mysterious flying squirrel with 'glowing eyes' discovered in China

A new species of flying squirrel has been discovered in China by researchers who say the newfound creature is already threatened.

Known as Biswamoyopterus gaoligongensis or the Mount Gaoligong flying squirrel, the new species was spotted in Yunnan Province, Southwest China. First discovered first 2018, the squirrel was originally believed to be a part of the "missing" Namdapha flying squirrel species. But further inspection of its color, as well as its teeth and skull, gave researchers confidence it is "distinct from any of the previously known species in the genus," according to the release discussing the findings.

"The new species was discovered in the 'blank area' spanning 1,250 km between the isolated habitats of the two known species, which suggests that the genus is much more widespread than previously thought," the study's lead author, Quan Li, said in a statement. "There is still hope for new Biswamoyopterus populations to be discovered in between or right next to the already known localities."

Close-up of the newly described flying squirrel species Biswamoyopterus gaoligongensis. (Credit: Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden)

Close-up of the newly described flying squirrel species Biswamoyopterus gaoligongensis. (Credit: Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden)

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The study was published in the scientific journal, ZooKeys.

"The results of this study showed that the specimens from Yunnan province (China) differed from both B. laoensis and B. biswasi in both pelage colour and craniology, and should be recognized as a distinct species, B. gaoligongensis sp. nov., which is formally described here," the abstract notes.

The other members of the Biswamoyopterus genus are the aforementioned Namdapha flying squirrel and the Laotian giant flying squirrel, first discovered in 2013.

It's likely that the "glowing eyes" seen in the picture are nothing more than the result of lens flare on camera.

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"The morphological features of B. gaoligongensis are closer to the critically endangered and missing Namdapha flying squirrel, but is still readily identifiable as a distinct species," Li added in the statement

Given that the Mount Gaoligong flying squirrels were spotted close to settlements, it's possible that humans could disrupt the species, making it all the more imperative researchers investigate and study them as soon as possible, Quan added.

“Therefore, there is an urgent need to study the ecology, distribution, and conservation status of this rare and very beautiful genus.”

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