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SPECIES Rattus sanila

Author:Flannery and White, 1991.
Citation:Nat. Geog. Res. Explor., 7: 102.
Common Name:New Ireland Forest Rat
Type Locality:Bismarck Arch., New Ireland, Balof, site 2.
Distribution:Apparently endemic to New Ireland.
Comments:Rattusspecies group unresolved. Represented only by subfossil fragments dated at 3000 years before present and older (late Pleistocene to mid-Holocene), but may still occur in primary forest, which has not been adequately sampled. Flannery and White (1991) described sanila as a subspecies of R. mordax, but most dental measurements of sanila exceed and do not overlap those of even the largest known R. mordax, suggesting the former to be a separate species, which even Flannery and White acknowledged (also see Flannery, 1995b). Recent taxonomic and stratigraphic analysis of rodent remains from New Ireland and Manus Isl has confirmed the specific status of sanila (K. P. Aplin and M. Leavesley, in litt., 2004). Although originally phylogenetically allied with R. mordax (Flannery and White, 1991), K. Aplin (in litt., 2004) noted that upper molars of R. sanila ". . . are very complex in comparison with typical New Guinea Rattus," and he suspects the species may be a relict of an archaic, and original, dispersal of ancestral Rattus stock to New Guinea and Australia.
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