North American news

Dear All,

1. A new checklist of North American mammals has just been published. The authors team included a co-author of many recently proposed changes in shrews, deer mice, and voles taxonomy who opted not to reflect them at the time (that’s more or less what they told me when I asked).

There are a few things I’d do differently (particularly concerning African ungulates that occur only on fenced ranches in Texas), but anyway, it’s a nice update.

2. I got a few people interested in the Sierra/Great Basin tour, but all have conflicting schedules. So I think I’ll do it as personalized tours, with up to 3 participants. The main advantage is that I’ll be able to do it in an SUV instead of a van. It would be easier to do in late June-October, when all roads are open, but we can figure out a way to do a version of it in winter, too. If you are interested in this one or would like to do a custom-made tour to any other part of North American continent, please let me know. I’ll generally price them at $250-350 per day plus expenses.

We got ourselves a new small mammal last week. Judging by her metabolism rate, she belongs to genus Sorex. So I’m mostly stuck in North America for 2015, and can take anyone anywhere as long as it’s for a week. Please email me if interested, dinets at
Vladimir Dinets


  • markhowsMark Hows

    Interesting Chlorocebus sabaeus (Green ververt monkey) is not on the list has the Florida population gone?

  • Jurek

    Congrats Vlad, now you will have somebody to check all the narrow bat roosts 😉

  • John Fox

    Congrats from me, too, V.

    I am pretty comfortable exploring NA on my own, I know the language and how ATM machines work, LOL. But if you run across any academic or professional work where they wouldn’t mind an amateur being there, or could use a hand like BCI workshops, I’d be up for that.

    And thanks for the checklist, Pacific Marten is a good reason to go to SE Alaska.


  • morganchurchill

    I need to look at this in more detail, but initial thoughts is that I am surprised some decisions were made while others were not. In particular, Delphinidae was not revised at all, and Cetartiodactyla is increasingly considered obsolete. And Pacific Marten always seemed a really dubious split. Also I really wished they would go into detail on the range of the introduced taxa. My understanding is that the pouched rat population is completely extirpated and the Japanese Macaques have been living in semi-captivity for at least a decade. Similarly…I am really skeptical if a lot of those Texas big game species are truly “wild”

    • morganchurchill

      Digging through the checklist, it appears that the extirpation efforts I read of a few years ago are failing…I found articles from this summer highlighting that the Pouched Rats are still a problem and may even be expanding…oof

      Also it seems like the evidence for Pacific Marten is stronger than I thought, although this make me curious on well supported other Pacific NW splits might be for other mammals, like the Flying Squirrels.

      Aren’t there other alternative common names for the american “pipistrelles”? because I kind of hate the common names they are using now.

      • vdinets

        The problems that I see in the checklist are as follows:

        (1) The evidence for splitting Sherman’s Short-tailed Shrew is as good as for splitting Everglades Sh-t Sh, so you have to split either none or both.

        (2) “Least Shrew” is a bad common name because there are other Least Shrews elsewhere, and also because many N Am shrews are actually smaller. “Northern Short-eared Shrew” or “Common Sh-e Sh” would be much more consistent and better overall. But this one isn’t exactly the authors’ fault, of course.

        (3) I’ve heard of an unpublished record of Mexican Long-eared Bat in AZ. But I might be wrong on this one.

        (4) Keen’s Myotis has been shown to be a race of Long-eared Myotis.

        (5) Yes, their common names for ex-pipistrelles are horrible. I really like “Canyon Bat” and am OK with “Tricolored Bat”.

        (6) If you split wolves so finely, you have to split C. familiaris as well.

        (7) There is no reason whatsoever to keep listing Kit and Swift Foxes as separate species.

        (8) American Mink is nested within Mustela and shouldn’t be split in a separate genus. I haven’t checked the evidence for Pecania.

        (9) There might be varying views on just how oversplit are true seals, but there is really no reason to split Pusa as a separate genus.

        (10) Yes, some African ungulates in TX should be considered domestic rather than feral.

        (11) Books by Groves and Grubb can’t be considered a legitimate source due to flawed methodology, selective use of evidence and staggering number of factual errors.

        (12) Moose split has never been well substantiated and is simply a mistake (see IUCN account for a brief overview).

        (13) Using the name “Elk” for C. elaphus is totally illogical and misleading. It’s not called “Elk” anywhere, and “Elk” is an established name for C. canadensis.

        (14) Yes, Delphinidae list looks like they didn’t even bother.

        (15) Why on earth did they call B. bairdi “Baird’s Beaked Bottlenose Whale”?

        (16) Why call a widespread species “Peary Land Collared Lemming”? What’s wrong with “Nearctic” or “Greenland”?

        (17) Podomys is nested within Peromyscus.

        (18) Why use “Texas Marsh Rice Rat” and not just “Texas Rice Rat”? I hate 4-word common names and think they should be avoided.

        (19) They are very inconsistent: they apply more lax criteria to splitting Heteromyids and Geomys than to Cricetids. I guess it’s a side effect of assigning various groups to different authors, but perhaps they should have agreed on standard approaches beforehand.

        (20) Liomys should me merged into Heteromys.

        Unfortunately, it might be too late to count errors as such checklists tend to be accepted as standard sources by default.

      • morganchurchill

        yeah I haven’t done a rigorous examination…I would have to double check the studies for things like shrews and such.

        I will say that I am okay with Pusa, since merging it with Phoca would also mean having to sink Halichoerus, which folks in the marine mammal community are loath to do.

        At least some of the rodent taxonomy are things I picked up in my own checklist. You think, given the ground squirrel changes, they would have picked up the Podomys and Liomys issues.

        They really need to annotate and give more detail for these changes, since sometimes its unclear why some things exist as they do. At least with the AOU and CNAH/SSAR, enough detail is provided on things like distribution to make it clear why and exotic species is countable and why another species isn’t.

        I really want to buy Introduced Mammals of the World, or at least get a hold of a copy. It would better fill me in on the situation with exotic ungulates in the US.

  • mattinidaho

    Are the “Columbia Plateau” and “Great Basin” ground squirrels their names for “Piute” and “Merriams”? Just curious.

    The introduced ungulates in Texas are a blurry line. I think it will be interesting how that unintended experiment turns out. Driving around South Texas can be a bit disorienting. It seems a slippery slope as to what counts and what doesn’t. Some species are living on very large ranches (larger than some national parks in native range where these species are routinely “counted”). I am not sure seeing a scimitar-horned oryx on a Texas ranch is much different than seeing one on a “preserve” in Morocco. Morocco seems better but in reality neither is a wilderness or wild setting.

    But clearly this IS a slippery slope: I have seen giraffes and zebras and kangaroos on large Texas ranches — surely those shouldn’t count towards a life list.

    I was visiting a ranch (not high fenced) involved in conservation. The ranch managers reported lesser kudu and other species showing up and reproducing in wild conditions. I suspect that much of Texas now has semi-wild populations of a wide range of ungulates.

    And there are some species — nilgai, Barbary sheep, chital — that clearly have self-sustaining wild populations.

    I am more interested in these from conservation and ethics standpoints (and as writing subjects) than for life lists, but I think these are interesting issues to ponder.

    • vdinets

      Well, for conservation, these introduced herds are useless, because they usually represent species that are common in the native range (like nilgai, chital and lesser kudu), are often mixes of different subspecies (like blackbuck and barbary sheep), and exist mostly due to the absence of.predators. They also damage native flora and compete with native fauna. Scimitar-horned oryx is the only one that once had some justification for it, but there’s plenty of them in fenced herds in North Africa now.

      As for countability, there are three possible approaches:
      (1) Use something similar to ABA criteria for birds, in which case many of these Texas exotics would be countable;
      (2) Use something much stricter, possibly not counting anything introduced outside the native range unless it’s extinct in its native range or exists there only as fenced herds.

      If people want to compete, perhaps there should be two separate competitions? Or should we just hold a vote on this forum?
      Personally, I would prefer the second option, but I might be in the minority.

      • morganchurchill

        Well…I mean there are two elements here: listing and documentation. A checklist should simply be a record of species that exist or did exist within a given region, including introduced species that maintain stable, free-roaming populations.

        Listing in my mind is complete separate, and what to list is often a personal decision. Personally I count exotics if they form a stable population that is counted on a regional checklist. However I know some people hate that, and make sure to never count anything with the hint of introduction, even native but reintroduced animals. I know there are people in the ABA that want to drop kick every non-native off the ABA checklist, and would hope that listing doesn’t ever get in the way of an actual mammal checklist and whether an exotic species should be counted.

      • mattinidaho

        I don’t disagree about the Texas exotics. I still find them interesting. I suspect their impacts on native species are not as severe as roads, exploding population, Border Fence, energy development and other threats raging in South Texas right now.

        I’ve always found keeping lists of species fun but have never been interested in the competitive aspect of it. So I have no opinion on that and will let the rest of you argue that out! 🙂

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