Scientists have confirmed that a badger recently discovered in Somerset is a previously unknown species, being dubbed Meles meles, and only distantly related to the Meles Roadkillus variety often seen in Britain.
The specimen, captured by a local farmer, has some major differences to its better known relative. It has been observed walking around the laboratory where tests have been carried out, instead of just lying at the side of the road bleeding while being eaten by birds, and is also around a foot higher. More significantly though, it has most of its organs on the inside, rather than distributed over a 2-metre radius.
Evolutionary scientists have long been baffled by the more common variety, struggling to understand how a species had developed to survive while having vital organs spread over three lanes of motorway. So little was known about them that Bill Oddie, a keen badger enthusiast and famous beard-wearer, once spent a week in a specially constructed hide on the hard shoulder of the M25, in order to try to gain an insight into the feeding and breeding habits of this fascinating creature in its natural habitat. But the only one he saw never even moved.
The research team responsible for confirming the new species’ status is now hoping to cross-breed the specimen with its distant cousin.
‘We’ve brought in one of the more common variety, on a shovel, and are hoping that the two will get on,’ said lead scientist Martin Burns. ‘We’re curious as to what a cross between them would turn out like, and are hoping that it would have at least two working legs, with lower liquification of the bones, and maybe be less smeary.’
‘We’re hoping that we can eventually get the numbers of the new breed up high enough to release them into the wild, near busy motorway junctions, as they’re a fair old size and should be almost as satisfying to run over as a fox.’