Taxonomy news

1. A new genus and species of mole has been described from Tibet. The location is near the main road from Lhasa to Yunnan, but you need a special permit to get there. The description is not up to ICZN standards because the authors mentioned the name, Alpiscaptulus medogensis, in the abstract, which is specifically (and very inconveniently) prohibited.
2. There is a new proposal to split Gulf of Mexico population of Bryde’s whale into a new species. The paper is not on sci-hub yet so I don’t know how good the evidence is; from the abstract it looks like the authors only compared whales from different parts of the Atlantic.
3. A new bat, Myotis nimbaensis, described from Mt. Nimba; it looks very similar to M. welwitschii.
4. There is a new paper (Ojeda et al., Zoologica Scripta) on species limits in Phyllotis xanthopygius group, proposing but not describing two new species. I have the PDF if anybody wants it.
5. A 2020 paper I never mentioned here: a proposal to split meadow vole into three species: W, E and Florida. Western (M. drummondii) and eastern (M. pennsylvanicus s. str.) are very widespread and easy to see, but M. dukecampbelli is extremely rare and localized. In 2010 I spent a whole week in Lower Suwannie NWR where it occurs while studying alligators, and managed to see it only once. Might be a bit easier with a thermal scope.
6. Speaking of Florida splits, there was a 2010 dissertation proposing to split the Florida subspecies of least shrew as Cryptotis floridanus (actually, it’s a bit more complicated; the two forms are largely sympatric). It was never properly published or followed up, but is now beginning to make its way into checklists, so have a look.
7. An interesting paper on the systematics of some Himalayan Myotine bats, lumping a few taxa.


  • Morgan Churchill

    I have skimmed the B. ricei paper, so I can provide a few more details

    The phylogeny used included individuals from throughout the global distribution of the Bryde’s-Eden’s complex, and B. ricei is sister to B. edeni, and both form a clade that is sister to B. brydei.

    They also examined cranial morphology, and the nasal-vertex region of ricei are clearly separable from other members of the complex. So the morphological evidence is pretty good for the split, not that shape of nasal bones is going to help folks here in identifying a whale at sea 😛

    The big caveats in interpreting the paper are the following: no nuclear DNA is included, and I am not sure the full distribution is understood. B. edeni seems to be entirely absent from the tropical/north Atlantic, however some sampled whales from this area did register as B. brydei. So outside the one identified core foraging range in the Gulf of Mexico, I am not sure one can safely assign identity to a member of this complex elsewhere in the tropical Atlantic. B. ricei and B. brydei could be sympatric in at least part of there range.

    My guess is that B. ricei may also occur in the gulf stream, as I recall there is a skull from North Carolina that belongs to this complex that has been long postulated to be an undescribed species.

    FYI, there is more work underway on this complex. So hopefully more clarity will be available soon.

    • Vladimir Dinets

      Thank you! In Japan at least you can tell brydei from edeni by the shape of the head when seen from above… so unless you are doing aerial counts, you need to have a drone every time you go whalewatching :-). Brydei is also slightly larger but with a lot of overlap (13-15 m vs. 12-14); clearly too small a difference to be useful in the field. But in Japan they occur in different places: you can be reasonably sure that whales seen along the coast are edeni and the ones around the small outlying islands are brydei.

      If there are skull images in the paper, perhaps we can check if the head shape of ricei is more like edeni or brydei. The sides are supposed to be more concave in the latter.

      I don’t understand why anybody would go through all the trouble of getting DNA samples from living whales and then look only at mtDNA.

    • Vladimir Dinets

      I got the PDF of the paper now. Yes, it’s weird that everybody ignores nuclear DNA. But it looks like IDing is easy because in their core range they are pretty much the only baleen whales, and the ones that get out into the Atlantic are noticeably smaller than brydei (~10 m vs. 14-15 m). There is an aerial photo in the paper and the head shape looks more like brydei than edeni I think.

      This whale is very difficult to see, not just because the population is so small, but also because the edge of the shelf is far out and there are no pelagic trips in the area. When I lived in Louisiana I used every chance to go out by whatever boat I could get onto (fishing, servicing oil rigs, etc.) and the best I ever got was a very distant spout and barely visible fluke (now officially countable since according to the paper there are no other baleen whales in the area). I tried to organize a real pelagic trip, but it proved so difficult that by the time it finally happened I already moved out of the state; my friends went on it and saw zero mammals or pelagic seabirds.

  • Jim

    Since when is it forbidden to cite a new taxon in a summary, from the moment when its diagnosis is present in the article?

  • Vladimir Dinets

    No idea since when and why, but it was in ICZN the last time I read it. You can’t mention the new name in the title or the abstract; the first time it is mentioned must be the actual description. Of course, it’s a huge inconvenience if the paper is behind paywall and all you can access is the title and the abstract.

  • Dan Zimberlin

    If that’s the case about new names it must not be well known. Looking at the latest issue of Zootaxa every new species name was available in the abstract.

    • Morgan Churchill

      The same for paleontology papers, which are constantly describing new species and mentioning them in the abstract

  • Matt Heinicke

    The relevant rule in the Code is referring to meeting/presentation abstracts as not fulfilling the publication requirement. Names appearing in journal article abstracts are fine, assuming the remainder of the article meets all the other requirements (providing a diagnosis/definition, designating a type specimen, etc.). Some journals do have format restrictions that prevent names from appearing in article abstracts or titles though.

  • Vladimir Dinets

    Perhaps it got cancelled? I just looked through ICZN and don’t see it anymore. But it looks like many people are unaware of that.

    • Jim

      To my knowledge, there is nothing in the code that states that new taxa should not be mentioned otherwise Zootaxa and many other journals would be illegal, and I consult the various zoological journals every day.

  • John Fox

    The Society for Marine Mammalogy checklist now includes Rice’s Whale. We got great looks on a birding pelagic out of Alabama in 2009, now I need to find a regular one.

    Bryde’s whale (B. e. brydei) and Eden’s whale (B. e. edeni) are subspecies of Bryde’s whale (B. edeni). They say more study of the complex is needed.

    Ganges and Indus river dolphins are both full species again.

  • Vladimir Dinets

    Isn’t it weird to accept Rice’s but not Eden’s?

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