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A Somali Sengi at the Assamo locality in Djibouti.

The long-nosed mammal called the Somali sengi thrives in the deserts of Djibouti. Credit: Steven Heritage


An elephant-nosed creature ‘lost to science’ was living just next door

The Somali elephant shrew, unseen by scientists for decades, is well-known to people in Djibouti’s rocky deserts.

Do not mourn the Somali sengi, also known as the Somali elephant shrew. It was considered ‘lost to science’ after decades without any sightings being recorded in the scientific literature, and was known to biologists only from museum specimens. But the tiny insect-eating mammal — with its long tufted tail, trunk-like nose, and adorable large, dark, liquid eyes — is apparently doing fine.

The Somali sengi (Galegeeska revoilii), one of 20 sengi species, was previously thought to be endemic to its namesake nation. But now the species has been found in the neighbouring Republic of Djibouti, according to Steven Heritage at Duke University’s lemur centre in Durham, North Carolina, and his colleagues.

After co-author Houssein Rayaleh at Association Djibouti Nature in Djibouti City saw sengis in the area, the team put out 1,259 live traps in Djibouti, and successfully trapped 8 Somali sengis. Local people aided the expedition with information about the creature’s abundance and preferred habitats — a reminder that vast troves of biological and ecological knowledge reside outside the scientific enterprise.

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Camera-trap image of Dendrohyrax interfluvialis

Some tree hyraxes scream in the night, but the newly identified Dendrohyrax interfluvialis (above, camera-trap image) utters a complex series of squawks, rattles and barks. Credit: J. F. Oates et al./Zool. J. Linn. Soc.


A bark in the dark reveals a hidden hyrax

Its neighbours scream, but a new species of tree hyrax — a cousin of the elephant — unleashes a rattling bark.
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Plastic detritus from snacks and meals floats in the Red Sea. Marine sampling shows that food waste accounts for nearly 90% of plastic pollution at some locales. Credit: Andrey Nekrasov/Barcroft Media/Getty

Ocean sciences

Humanity’s fast-food habit is filling the ocean with plastic

Food bags, drink bottles and similar items account for the biggest share of plastic waste near the shore.
Conceptual artwork of a pair of entangled quantum particles.

An artist’s impression of ‘entangled’ particles, which share properties even at a distance. Entangled photons can be used to help secure a multi-party video meeting. Credit: Mark Garlick/Science Photo Library

Quantum information

Quantum keys dial up tamper-proof conference calls

A new experiment efficiently distributes the highly secure keys to four parties instead of the typical two.
Farmers harvest pineapples in a field.

Workers harvest pineapples in Lingao County, China. Less than one-third of the money spent on food eaten at home reaches farmers. Credit: Yuan Chen/VCG/Getty


Poor harvest: farmers earn a pitiful fraction of the money spent on food

The bulk of consumer food spending around the world ends up in the coffers of distributors, processors and other parties beyond the farm gate.
A woman wearing a protective face mask splashes her hands in a jet of water

A pedestrian seeks relief from searing temperatures in Spain, where a high proportion of heat-related deaths have been linked to climate change. Credit: SALAS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Climate change

More than one-third of heat deaths blamed on climate change

Warming resulting from human activities accounts for a high percentage of heat-related deaths, especially in southern Asia and South America.
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