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The Cuban solenodon, a nocturnal, football-sized mammal that resembles a chunky shrew, has an abundance of peculiar qualities. It has a long cartilaginous snout and venomous saliva, which it uses to catch and kill insects and worms. It has terrible eyesight and may be capable of echolocation. The few people who have handled one say that it smells like a goat, and when it is startled it runs on its toes, usually in awkward zigzags that do little to help it avoid capture. Like its cousin the Hispaniolan solenodon, whose snout sits on a ball-and-socket joint, it is an evolutionary curiosity. Most plant and animal species share a history with multiple close relatives—kangaroos with wallabies, eagles with hawks, peach trees with cherry trees, and so on. But the solenodons’ lonely lineage diverged from the rest of the mammals’ back in the Cretaceous period, when the dinosaurs still had more than ten million years left on Earth. In a paper published in this week’s issue of Nature, three researchers argue that the protection of outlier species like the solenodon could have disproportionate—and, to a large extent, untapped—benefits for global biodiversity.

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In a new paper, researchers argue that oddball animals like the Cuban solenodon should be more aggressively protected.COURTESY NEW YORK ZOOLOGICAL SOCIETY / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

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Click link below for article:

http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/conservationists-could-be-saving-more-biodiversity-in-less-space

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