Laonastes aenigmamus (kha-nyou)

Laonastes aenigmamus or Kha-nyou is somewhat squirrel-like rodent found in the Khammouan Limestone National Biodiversity Conservation area Laos.

Kha-nyou is an endangered species because it has only been found in such a small area.

The Laonastes aenigmamus was described recently by Museum scientists and the rodent was originally considered to belong to a completely new family, the Laonastidae (Jenkins et al. 2005). 

However Kha-nyou was subsequently determined to be a lazarus species a living survivor of an otherwise extinct family, the Diatomyidae. The Diatomyidae were believed to have been extinct for approximately 11 million years (Dawson et al., 2006) until this discovery.

Species detail

Characteristic features

  • The head is elongated, with small, rounded ears and long whiskers, the body is compact, with short legs and the tail is approximately half the length of the head and body.
  • The body is covered in long, soft dense fur and the tail is also densely furred. 
  • Individuals vary in colour from dark grey to black on the back and flanks, some animals have lighter coloration on the undersurface and hindquarters.
  • Laonastes aenigmamus drawing
    Taxonomy

    Read a description of the appearance of this squirrel-like species and find out about its links to other families and species, including a link to a family previously believed to have been extinct for 11 million years.

  • Khammouan Limestone National Biodiversity Conservation Area
    Distribution and ecology

    Find out where Laonastes aenigmamus is believed to be endemic to and the type of habitat it is found in.

  • Laonastes aenigmamus
    Biology and behaviour

    While little is known about the biology of Laonastes aenigmamus, find out what reports suggest about its reproductive biology.

  • Laonastes aenigmamus
    Conservation

    Discover the reasons for the kha-nyou being listed as an endangered species.

  • Laonastes aenigmamus
    References

    Get reference material for Laonastes aenigmamus.

Images

Laonastes aenigmamus

Laonastes aenigmamus © D. Redfield

Khammouan Limestone National Biodiversity Conservation Area

Laonastes aenigmamus has a range of less than 5,000 km2, being largely confined to the Khammouan Limestone National Biodiversity Conservation Area. © M. Webber

Laonastes aenigmamus drawing

A drawing of Laonastes aenigmamus showing its elongated head with small, rounded ears and long whiskers.

© R. Timmins and M. Webber

About the author

Paula Jenkins
Ms Paula Jenkins

Senior Curator of Mammals, Vertebrates Division.

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