Unusual mouse with large ears and eyes discovered in Cyprus

A French archaeologist says he has identified a new species of mouse on Cyprus, marking what could be the first discovery of a new mammal in Europe for many years.

Thomas Cucchi says the "Cypriot mouse" has a larger head, ears, eyes and teeth than other known species of European mice. He made the discovery while studying modern and ancient mice in Cyprus in 2004.

Cucchi says the finding is exciting because scientists generally believed every species of mammal in Europe had already been identified. He says new species are usually discovered in regions of Southeast Asia that are hot spots of biodiversity.

The French scientist, who works for Durham University in Britain, says the Cypriot mouse appears to have been present on the island for several thousand years, predating the arrival of humans, reports Voice of America.

"Based on our DNA analysis we believe it has been around for perhaps half a million years," said Eleftherios Hadjisterkotis, a wildlife biologist at the Cypriot Ministry of Interior.

It was discovered during research into the feeding habits of barn owls. Its lower jawbone did not match those of other mice, said Hadjisterkotis.

“The discovery is a first for Cyprus. As far as mammals in the rest of Europe are concerned, just about everything else had been discovered," said Hadjisterkotis.

Thomas Cucchi of the University of Durham in Britain told the Times newspaper: "New mammal species are mainly discovered in hotspots of biodiversity like South East Asia and it was generally believed that every species of mammal in Europe had been identified.

"This is why the discovery of a new species of mouse on Cyprus was so unexpected and exciting," according to Reuters.