From time to time people express interest in having an “official” list of world mammal species from which to create a life list. Not only would this be helpful to anyone wanting to make a list, but it would ease comparisons among those who want to compare totals.
The trouble is there are competing references to draw from and none is perfect. Duff & Lawson’s list – which I base my own list on – is now more than 10 years old. The ongoing Handbook of the Mammals of the World series might have provided a gold standard reference but some of its taxonomic choices (with some serious splitting of ungulates for example) have been quite controversial on this blog and there is a bit of a backlash going on among more serious zoologists too.
After discussing the idea with a few people who read this blog – including Vladimir Dinets and Charles Foley – I think a useful step might be to use the IUCN Redlist of Mammals with appropriate modifications & caveats as a checklist. The IUCN list might not be perfect either for our purposes, with some choices driven by conservation priorities rather than mammal watching priorities (shame on them!), but it is arguably the least imperfect list out there. It also has the considerable advantages of being kept up to date (true some taxa are more up to date than others), being subject to broad scrutiny, and being well resourced.
A personal total… a comparable total
Of course a life list is a personal thing and what we do – or do not – include it shouldn’t really be of any great concern to anyone else. And I don’t think we will ever entirely agree on a list. Nor do we need to. Its not worth fighting about for the purposes of mammal watching. Lumpers and splitters please go about your lives in peace, while we agree to live and let live. I hope.
But – for the purposes of comparison – we could record our totals in two ways:
1) a personal total – that includes that Unicorn I saw when I was heading home from the bar last night and all 11 species of Klipsringer;
2) a standardised total based on the global checklist (sorry no Unicorn, just 1 Klipspringer). This latter total would simply allow for some greater comparison between lumpers and splitters.
But before we release a standardised checklist there are a number of changes we could consider making to the IUCN list to make it more mammalwatching friendly. The full list, downloaded from the IUCN site is here IUCN list
I compared my list to this one and found three groups of differences. These are all listed in the second worksheet discrepancies. I would be grateful for comments.
FERAL DOMESTIC SPECIES
1. The IUCN list does not include domestic species that are living wild. My list does. I guess this might simply reflect that the IUCN list is all about conservation status (though it also includes Homo sapiens). I don’t see any reason to exclude feral horses, donkeys, water buffalo, cows and sheep etc, so propose we use these species as they appear in Duff & Lawson. What do you think?
SPECIES TO ADD
2. Nor does the IUCN list include a few species that I believe are in the pipeline or acceptable. Most are recently described. Some – such as African Forest Elephant – are better established and may be excluded more for political/conservation reasons. Does anyone disagree with the species I have listed as “Species to be included”? As and when people wish to add species (such as these) to the master list I suggest they contact this blog and see what the reaction is. Meanwhile please get in touch with suggestions of other species to add.
SPECIES TO REMOVE FROM MY OWN LIST
3. There are a few species I had listed on my own list which the IUCN disagrees with. Much as it pains me to do it I would take these off of my life list – or at least off of the “standardised total” – after further research 🙁 Again, does anyone have views on this idea and the species listed?
If the idea is popular then I can maintain the global list, probably updating it every six months. And discussing proposals for additions or deletions from time to time. But if a proposal is controversial among the audience here then I suggest we stick with whatever the IUCN does in that particular instance. I don’t want to get into a fight about it.
Comments? Both on the general principles and the specifics of the list