Taxonomy news

A couple taxonomy papers:
1. A proposed overhaul of squirrel taxonomy, breaking Sciurus squirrels of the New World into a large number of genera and leaving only three Old World species in genus Sciurus. When it was published as preprint I recommended to the authors to at least discuss the alternative option of lumping all Neotropic squirrels (except pygmy) into Sciurus, but they didn’t do so. The authors also found two unnamed lineages and confirmed that Richmond’s squirrel (S. richmondi) of Nicaragua is not a valid species.
2. Yet more evidence that Burrunan dolphin (Tursiops australis) is not a valid species. I have to admit the proponents of the split got me almost convinced at some point.



    Rhipidomys venustus, an arboreal Venezuelan rodent that is seldom trapped but occasionally seen while spotlighting, has been split. R. venustus is now limited to Cordillera de Merida, while those in the coastal ranges are R. ochoagrateroli.

  • Fernando Hadjimanukian

    Any new species discovered recently ? Or new species elevated from subspecies in Carnivora, Artiodactyla or Primates?

  • Vladimir Dinets

    Primates get split all the time, but most of those splits are not scientifically justified. Artiodactyls are fairly stable as long as you ignore taxonomic vandalism by Groves & Grubb. The only proposed split in carnivores this year, if I remember correctly, was of pampas cats; it might be valid but the evidence is weak. I think the only split in the last few months that I didn’t mention here was a proposal to split the southernmost population of degus as Octodon ricardojeda, but genetic differences was small and in my opinion there’s solid evidence only for two species: O. degus and largely sympatric O. bridgesi with 4 subspecies (bridgesi, pacificus, ricardojeda and lunatus). A few weeks ago there were news of claimed discovery of a new Mesoplodon whale, but no details made public yet.

  • Jon Hall

    I’m working on a major overhaul of my mammal checklist looking at all the changes that have been included in the HMW and also from here and triangulating between them and IUCN which is often quite out of date. That should be out in a few days and might help you. I am trying to be fairly conservative in my splitting (and the ASM database for instance doesn’t recognise most of the “new” ungulates that appeard in the handbook of the mammals of the world) but still I should get an extra 20+ species out of it including two new giraffes, a new bushbuck, muntjaks in Sri Lanka/Southern India …. desperate times call for desperate measures!

  • Vladimir Dinets

    Most recent genetic evidence shows that there’s only one species of bushbuck. I would certainly wait on muntjacs as there might be just 4-5 species rather than 11-16 currently recognized by various lists. Many proposed splits were based on differences in chromosome numbers, but those haven’t been shown to create reproductive isolation.

  • Mustela

    What about the primate taxonomy described in Mammal Species of the World 3? I’m not a biologist, so I’ll have little idea about how to tell if a split is valid or not; however, it seems to me that primates are oversplit compared to other charismatic mammals (like carnivorans and ungulates). It seems so shocking to me the many tarsiers, mouse lemurs and marmosets and tamarins species that are mostly recognized despite looking so similar. Do you know if it exists a list with like, a more scientifically correct aproach to primate taxonomy?

  • Vladimir Dinets

    In most groups of mammals it’s common for two species to look almost identical but be genetically different and reproductively isolated. But with primates it’s usually the opposite: closely related populations can have striking differences in appearance, particularly in facial features. Just look at our own species. There is no official list I could recommend, but I have a personal checklist where only well-substantiated splits are recognized.

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