HMW Vol. 6 review, part 1.

I just received Vol. 6 of Handbook of Mammals of the World. I get it for free (long story), but since a lot of people probably can’t afford it, perhaps it would be a good idea to post a little summary here.

Just like Vols. 1-5, this one suffers from poor editorship and lack of standardized approach to family accounts. There are tons of errors, typos and inconsistencies; for example, some species accounts provide long lists of subspecies (130+ for Botta’s pocked gopher) without any critical review, while others just say the subspecies don’t deserve to be mentioned (such as in beavers and dormice chapters). Beavers chapter never actually spells out what the differences between the two species are. On the positive side, the book has lots of photos by regular visitors to this site, including seven by yours truly.

The taxonomy mostly follows IUCN Red List, but has even more of pro-split bias (in some cases a species is listed even though evidence mentioned in the text is totally against it, like for the “lined pocket mouse”). Below are some noteworthy changes (I’ll later continue in a separate post).

  1. Turuchan pika is listed as a species despite molecular evidence. If true, it would be the only endemic vertebrate in a huge chunk of Asia (about 1/2 of Siberia). It’s easy to see, BTW (look on talus slopes above the city of Norilsk, Russia). Korean pika is also listed as separate. It’s also easy to see if you make it to Lake Changbaishan on Chinese-Korean border (highly recommended). Kazakh pika is also split; look for it around Karaganda in (you guessed) Kazakhstan. The Sikkim pika split was published after the book went to press.
  2. There is some indication that eastern cottontail and tapeti will be split (tapeti has already been split into Central and South American forms).
  3. European rabbit might be split (the dividing line runs NW to SE across Spain).
  4. Hare taxonomy is still a total mess; it’s likely that the actual number of species is only half of what is currently listed.
  5. New pocket mice have been described from Montenegro in Costa Rica, Cerro Blanco in Ecuador, and Rancho Grande in Venezuela. They are large species, and if you’ve trapped there, you’ve probably seen them. I think I even have a couple photos somewhere.
  6. Great Basin pocket mouse is finally split; the new species is called Columbia Plateau p. m. and occurs from BC to Oregon and Idaho.
  7. Both kangaroo mice might be split. There are some interesting issues with them; I’ll post about them separately.
  8. There are lots of pocket gopher splits, mostly in Mexico but also in US Midwest. I’ll have to look at primary literature to see what evidence there is.
  9. Springhare is split into East African and South African species.

If you’d like more details on any of these changes, please let me know.

Vladimir Dinets


  • Morgan

    I for one would appreciate a break down of the USA/Canada taxonomy, as it would help with my own checklist creation efforts.

    • Vladimir Dinets

      Very few changes for North America compared to IUCN list. New England and Appalachian cottontails still listed as separate despite genetic evidence to the contrary. Hall’s, Sand Hills, Jones’ and Strecker’s pocket gophers recognized as full species despite some hybridization (Jones’ and Strecker’s are very local and a bit difficult to see, but Hall’s and Sand Hills are easy). Three spp. recognized in Tamiasciurus (red, Douglas’s and Fremont’s squirrels). Chipmunks are still listed in one genus. Mexican ground squirrel split, and US species is called Rio Grande g. s. That’s all I noticed.

    • Vladimir Dinets

      Also, there is genetic evidence that white-eared pocket mouse is not a full species, and that some other pocket mice should be split. San Joaquin p. m. might be 4 species despite its small range. But nobody has ever looked at the supposed contact zones.

      • Morgan

        Thanks for the replies. Mostly curious on any new splits not recognized since the last checklist update. Been slowly producing my own list by double-checking the literature for different groups, but its usually paused for months at a time, which then means I have to go back and often double check groups I have finished.

        I think the only thing I have left are carnivorans, artiodactyls (including whales), and bats.

        • Vladimir Dinets

          Bats are being described almost every month. The only recent news about cetaceans I’ve seen was new evidence that pygmy right whale does belong to that otherwise extinct family.

          • Morgan

            Oh my checklist is strictly speaking only USA + Canada. I can’t realistically keep up with worldwide bat and rodent classification!

            Marine mammals are easy for me to keep up with because it’s my area of expertise and research focus.

      • Venkat Sankar


        Can you email me the publications that discuss the White-eared PM lump and the San Joaquin PM contact zones/splits?

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