Question: How many “new” mammals were discovered last year

I just got an email – below – from Francine Brondex in France, asking about the numbers of new mammals described in 2013. My reply is also below but we’d love to know what others think…


Dear Jon,

As a biologist and science writer, I am working on a book about a vast biodiversity inventory in a French/italian protected area, Meracntour / Alpi Marittime. The inventory was mainly focused on invertebrates and weird vegetal living things, not that much on mammals. A pretty impressive number of new species has been described. And I was curious about the number of mammal species described or re-discovered in 2013 (Tapirus kabomani, Saola and others…), to have a comparison. I am pretty sure that you or someone in the mammalwatching community could answer this question.
Would appreciate any help on the subject!

Francine Brondex
Communication – Médiation scientifique et patrimoniale
Biodiversité – Développement Durable


Hi Francine,

The short answer is I don’t know. A slightly longer answer is I’d guess about 20. And a longer answer still, is, as you note, when is a new mammal a new mammal? Last year’s “discovery” of the olingito hit the headlines and yet the animal was well known, just not recognised as being different to the Olingo. Then there are a number of other cryptic species discovered as being new on the basis of DNA (and many would disagree about the validity of these). I’d say only 1 or 2 obviously different species are genuinely discovered each year.

But let’s see what the blog thinks!




  • dinets

    Off the top of my head, the new tapir is the only truly new species in the last year or two, and even that has been reported before (by van Roosmalen), but the first description was done so poorly that nobody took it seriously. Most “new” species claims nowadays come from primatologists, but that’s because many primatologists have switched to various non-scientific species criteria, such as diagnostibility or conservation importance. Sooner or later the current fad will pass and the number of primate species will shrink back from the current 450+ to around 200.

    Saola, by the way, was not re-discovered. Its continuous presence in that area was never in doubt.

  • morganchurchill

    Wikipedia lists ~33 new mammal species for 2013, most of which were bats and rodents. No idea how many of these were “new” discoveries versus taxonomic revision.

    Some of the more significant findings

    Olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina)
    Kabomani Tapir (Tapirus kabomami)
    Deraniyagala‘s beaked whale (Mesoplodon hotaula)
    Black-tailed Antechinus (Antechinus argentus)

  • Francine

    Thanks for your thoughts and answers guys!

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