A team of scientists, led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), have named a newly discovered rodent after renowned Caribbean ornithologist James Bond, who was also the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s famous fictional spy.
James Bond’s hutia (Plagiodontia aedium bondi) is found on Hispaniola, the Caribbean island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and is a large guinea pig-like rodent weighing in at more than a kilo, around the size of a small domestic cat. This highly secretive and poorly known mammal is part of a unique Caribbean mammal family which once numbered more than 30 species.
Colonization of the Caribbean, first by Amerindian settlers from South America and later by Europeans in the 1500s, led to most of these rodents becoming extinct. Scientists believe there may be as few as eight native Caribbean rodent species remaining, including James Bond’s hutia, and almost all are thought to be threatened with extinction.
Dr Samuel Turvey, lead author and Senior Research Fellow at ZSL, said: "The discovery of new mammals is always incredibly exciting, as there are now so few unexplored places left in the world.
"We named the hutia after the ornithologist James Bond because he originally identified a biogeographic barrier in southern Haiti, now called Bond's Line, which marks the boundary between the distribution of this hutia and its closest relatives, and which we now know used to be a shallow sea channel running across the island.
"I am glad we were able to describe James Bond’s hutia before it’s too late, as it is highly threatened by uncontrolled deforestation, even in protected areas. Species found on isolated islands, such as those in the Caribbean, have been shaken and stirred by human activity and are very vulnerable to extinction. However, we hope that conservation efforts will mean that hutias are forever."