Cameroon scalytail

Zenkerella insignis

SUBFAMILY Zenkerrinae

TAXONOMY

Zenkerella insignis Matschie, 1898, Yaunde, Cameroon. This rodent shares its generic name, Zenkerella, with a genus of African tree from the pea family.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Flightless dwarf anomalure; German: Dornscgwanzbilch. PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Strong resemblance to a very soft-furred dormouse. Large eyes, pink ears. Long ashy gray fur washed with dull yellow, especially on the lower limbs and cheeks. The underparts are a paler gray. Whiskers are long and shiny black. The tail is thick, with long black hairs. No flight membrane is present between limbs, but tail has the family's characteristic bark-gripping scales. There are 13 scales, one line of six and one of seven. Very little is known about this animal—less than two dozen have been caught and examined by scientists.

DISTRIBUTION

Known only from the western part of Central African rainforests; Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, and from Bioko Island (formerly Fernando Po) in the Gulf of Guinea.

HABITAT

Tolerates climates ranging from relatively dry (rainfall, 59 in [1,500 mm] per year) to very humid (394 in [10,000 mm] of rain per year). Most records from lowland rainforest, with a few from seasonally deciduous forest and treed savannas.

BEHAVIOR

Probably a day-active high-canopy specialist that has abandoned flight for a more scuttling progression. Very long, dense fur might cushion short leaps between trunks or branches. Must on occasion descend to the ground since has been caught in traps set for terrestrial rodents. Ankles have a brush of stiff hairs with flattened "spoon-like" tips. Associated with a patch of glands, they may serve to broadcast territorial scents, but the exact mechanism is uncertain. Rests by leaning against the interior wall of a hollow tree. Sometimes found roosting in the company of other anomalurids. Considered rare, though this may be an artifact of the remoteness of its habitat and the difficulty of studying small mammals in the rainforest canopy. In some parts of its range, the species may be nocturnal; the Bubi forest people of Bioko, who do not hunt at night, were unaware of this species.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Nothing is known.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Basically unknown. A male collected in the dry season had fully developed testes.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Lower Risk/Near Threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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