Not Madagascar: Luzon Has the World’s Greatest Concentration of Unique Mammals

Who would have thought that amidst 40,000 square miles of land rests a variety of mammals with a number that far surpasses Madagascar?

A tree-dwelling mouse - unique mammals species
A tree-dwelling mouse – one of the 28 new unique mammals species found in Luzon photo by Larry Heaney

That’s right – Madagascar. A popular haven of animals, it turns out that Philippine’s Luzon has a more massive variety of mammals, both big and small.


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Frontiers of Biogeography

A 15-year study showcased that Luzon doesn’t just have more mammals – but these mammals are highly unique and can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Comprised of American and Filipino authors, the researchers summarized their findings in Frontiers of Biogeography, stating the presence of 56 non-flying mammal species in the island, 52 of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Even more astonishing is that out of those 56, twenty-eight (28) were previously unheard of, which means that they were only discovered and studied during the course of the research.

Why Luzon

Even before the study started, researchers were already aware of the unique fauna situation of Luzon. Starting their study in the year 2000, it has already been shown that the Philippine island is home to one-of-a-kind animals in the world.

The Southern Giant Slender-tailed Cloud Rat or Southern Luzon Giant Cloud Rat By Ltshears - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4232449
The Southern Giant Slender-tailed Cloud Rat or Southern Luzon Giant Cloud Rat By Ltshears – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4232449

Lawrence Heaney who is the project leader said that the group kick-started the study in 2000 as they knew during the time that a lot of the native mammal species in Luzon were one-of-a-kind.

Heaney is also The Field of Museum’s Negaunee Curator of Mammals. The museum is located in Chicago.

Explaining the Phenomena

The reason for Luzon’s amazing animal diversification stems from a number of factors starting with the relative age of the island. It is further compounded by the fact that Luzon was never attached to any other continent in the course of its life – which means that any fauna living in it is more or less isolated. This gave the animal’s excellent room for growth with very little predators to keep their population at bay. It seems that evolution also played a strong part with the creation of new species, giving birth to new branches of the same mammal with their own unique and distinctive characteristics. Imagine this kind of situation happening for centuries on end and it’s not surprising that Luzon is the fauna hotbed it is today. The island being composed of various plants and landscapes, these same animals managed to reside in their own “pocket environments” which allowed them to thrive further.

One wonders what else can be found in Luzon – not just in the fauna front but in the flora as well.

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