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Some folks are recognized when a grandchild bears their name or a scholarship is created in their honor.

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh biology professor Greg Adler’s legacy gets solidified this week as a new species of opossum he collected a decade ago is described in an American Museum of Natural History publication.

And here’s the kicker …

Greg Adler

The new species  featured in the Dec. 8 issue of American Museum Novitates is named Marmosa adleri, which is Latin for Adler’s mouse opossum.

Robert Voss, curator with the American Museum of Natural History’s mammalogy department, serves as lead author on the article that describes Marmosa alderi as among the smallest measured of the subgenus Micoureus. The novel species has a very long tail that’s about 160% of its head-and-body length on average.

“The discovery of this new species of opossum is highly unusual because I collected it in what may be the most intensively studied area of tropical forest in the world,” Adler said. “Numerous expeditions collected thousands of specimens there throughout the 20th century and never found this species. It is astounding that it escaped discovery for so long.”

The finding is a highlight of Adler’s nearly 30-year career studying mammals, including rodents and opossums, in tropical rainforests around the world.

“In 2001, I was capturing a lot of mouse opossums, which were common and widespread throughout forested parts of central Panama. I captured one individual in a national park that had a slightly different color on the belly, and I did not know if it was just a color variation of a common species or a different species,” Adler explained.

At the time, he didn’t suspect that it was an undiscovered species.

Greg Adler with a spiny rat in central Panama, just a few miles away from where he captured the new opossum species.

“In my field work around the world, I had always hoped that I would discover a new species. Of the places where I had worked, I thought that my best chances were in either Vietnam or French Guiana, and I thought the least likely would be central Panama because that area has been much more thoroughly sampled,” he said.

Adler added that he is “both flattered and honored” to have a new species named after him.

“It is something of a reward for decades of hard work under difficult conditions in remote tropic forests,” he said.

In the American Museum Novitates article, Voss expanded on Adler’s impact:

“Adler’s many publications include important contributions to knowledge of seed dispersal, habitat use, community ecology and demography of Neotropical small mammals based on several decades of trapping studies in Panama and northern South America.”

Back in the classroom at UW Oshkosh, Adler teaches a number of courses, including ecology and evolution, a requirement for biology majors.

“I have not told any of my students about this discovery, but I probably will at some point, because I stress how important it is to be aware and observant any time they are outside.”

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