Global Mammal Checklist: new update

I have just uploaded an updated global mammal checklist (here). The first update in 12 months.

The checklist began life as something primarily based on the IUCN Red List. But the Red List taxonomy is sometimes quite out of date for some groups of species, so I am moved to using the American Society of Mammalogists’ (ASM)  Mammal Diversity Database (MDD) as a foundation. This list is updated every few months by a team of students (thank you!).

The biggest addition to the list – again courtesy of the work in the MDD – is including country ranges for every species. This will be a help for IDing species.

You can read more about the MDD team’s approach to taxonomic decisions here. You might not agree to them all but the database gives citations for every change so you can make you own assessment. It also flags changes that are still tentative. Inevitably – because (shock) taxonomists can also disagree – some of their choices are subjective. Perhaps the most notable is their decision not to recognize many of the ‘new’ ungulates that appeared in the Handbook of the Mammals of the World.  This taxonomy has proven controversial for many of us, because it is based “primarily on qualitative morphological diagnoses with small sample sizes”. My checklist follows the ASM on this.

I have included a handful of species that are not on their list (largely because I have been told they will soon be formally described) and excluded a handful of others that the ASM recognize as still tentative or just because I was a bit sceptical (warning – I am not well qualified to have an informed opinion!).

There are plenty of name and genus changes. About 150 new – or newly split – species have been added and more than 50 have been dropped or lumped. The net result is a global mammal list that has increased by almost 100  species since January 2021: now at 6389 species.

Changes that I’ve made are listed on a second worksheet in the Excel spreadsheet.

Some splits that gave my list a boost include

Coppery Brushtail Possums – common on the Atherton Tablelands near Cairns, Australia

Reticulated Giraffes – from northern Kenya and elsewhere

Merriam’s Long-tongued Bat – through Central America, split from Common Long-tongued Bat.

But – horror – I lost more than I gained.

For example.

In the USA, the Northern and Southern Idaho Ground Squirrels are now lumped as one species, as are the Robust and Manzano Mountains Cottontails (which I’d seen in Big Bend Texas and close to Albuquerque respectively).

In Africa, Harvey’s Duiker (which I’ve seen in Kenya and Tanzania) is now lumped with Natal Red Duiker (from further south).

European changes include lumping the Montane Water Vole (the species Wildcats hunt in the Picos de Europa) with the widespread European Water Vole.

A reminder that you can keep your sightings and list uptodate using the excellent, and free, Scythebill software, which has already updated its mammal taxonomy using this list. They too have incuded the country range information for each species.

As always happy to get comments, corrections and queries which I can look at before the next update. Vladimir Dinets also regularly posts on the site about the very latest taxonomy news.

Jon

16 Comments
  1. Daan Drukker 4 months ago

    Nice! I’m a bit afraid that the same situation will arise as with the birds, where lots of confusion can arise with two or more separate lists (IOC vs Clements). Hopefully it will be possible one day to get a single progressive mammallist that is updated regularly.

    • Diedert Koppenol 4 months ago

      I agree with Daan. What list are you using Daan? I’d hoped mammalwatchers would’ve learned from birders’ mistakes and kept it together with one list.
      Also trying to figure out this Scythebill, which seems like a cool feature!

      • Daan Drukker 4 months ago

        I use Observation.org, which is based on IUCN, but is currently being updated with the Lynx publication of the Illustrated Checklist by a very hard working volunteer. I am not completely sure if of the details of the update though, I’ll ask him. Interesting stuff nonetheless!

  2. Vladimir Dinets 4 months ago

    I would recommend waiting on recognizing all those chromosomal races of birch mice as new species, and sticking with the 15 taxa that are morphologically distinct. People working on Sicista phylogeny have privately told me me that they are very skeptical about the idea of considering those races as full species. Gerbillus mauritaniae was described from one specimen (subsequently lost) and never found again despite some surveys in the area; it appears to have been an aberrant G. nancillus (see Ndiaye et al. 2016). G. syrticus has been recently considered a synonym or a subspecies of G. henleyi (see Bouarakia et al. 2018) and there seem to be no new data to the contrary.

  3. Vladimir Dinets 4 months ago

    Also, Talpa transcaucasica is very much alive and kicking: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s42991-020-00010-4

  4. Author
    Jon Hall 4 months ago

    Thanks everyone. Noted on the confusion of several lists. But until the ASM database, which I only discovered a year ago, I knew of no list that was being kept thoroughly up to date. The work for the handbook was a big update on what was available at the time (including the IUCN redlist which is years out of date for some species groups). But the handbook taxonomy, especially their many ungulate splits, remains controversial amongst many mammalogists and mammalwatchers. In fact I don’t think I know anyone who is persuaded by it. This includes the team behind the MDD. The ASM list (or rather their database) is the first complete, public and regularly updated list I know of. Whether I should continue to produce my own checklist is a good question, given it and the ASM are now very similar with this latest version. But it might also be a little premature for me to stop, especially if the ASM were to stop making updates.. Personally I would also prefer the ASM not to include changes that they note are still tentative (ie I would prefer them to be a bit more cautious with some splits and lumps that could be reversed) but that is their decision and they know a lot more about it than I do. But I would love to hear suggestions….

  5. Vladimir Dinets 4 months ago

    Also, Myotis melanorhinus is apparently a valid species: https://academic.oup.com/sysbio/article/67/2/236/4095671?login=true

  6. JanEbr 4 months ago

    I understand the wish to be “up to date”, but us a few years’ delay in accepting changes such a big issue? Why is one list fine in 2015 and not in 2020? The updated list will become equally obsolete in a few years anyway….

    This is why I think we would do better just sticking with IUCN. It’s used by many other sources, so as a bonus, you get a matching system on other webpages. And while country lists are fine, the IUCN range maps are unparalleled. Yes, they are sometimes a little more out of date (sometimes by centuries …) but no other source has such a uniform coverage of species with this information presented in such a handy form as far as I know.

    I started as a birder and the situation with three competing taxonomies has been borderline comical. Now, at last, they are working on converging, but it’s still a very slow process…

    • Author
      Jon Hall 4 months ago

      Thanks Jan – these are good points. I think this is an important discussion so welcome more thoughts. A couple of small points: the American Society of Mammalogists list is updated every few months by a team of people … so it should not become obsolete. To me that is its main advantage. And of course the IUCN range maps are available still, even if for not all the species on my list.

      I agree with you on some of the pros of the IUCN list. On the other hand it is 1) sometimes at least 20 years out of date (eg Pilliga Mouse in Australia was discovered not to be a unique species at all in the early 2000s but it isstill listed), and 2) it is designed more for conservation than taxonomy (let alone mammalwatching). So the African Forest Elephant which I think everyone accepts is a different species did not appear on the red list til very recently because recognizing it would complicate conservation (eg a law preventing Loxodnta africana ivory from being sold might not cover L. cyclotis etc). That makes perfect sense for the IUCN but is not ideal if you want to count mammal species.

      I have said before that different end uses need different taxonomies. Conservation, scientists and mammalwatchers all think about the world in different ways, so we could have different ways of organizing it. That seems fine to me. But I very much agree if we have a chance to avoid birders’ mistakes then we should do that. Especially as already there are several different lists being used by mammal listers – IUCN, ASM, Handbook of the Mammals and more ….

      How are the different birdlists maintained? Could we create some kind of a mammalwatching committee who update a checklist each year after agreeing what should change. This definitely should not be left to me to decide on my own! Or we could stick with the ASM list. Or return to the IUCN … or … suggestions please!

  7. Antee 4 months ago

    I use Scythebill and are very happy with this to record my sightings.

    Does it work to implement this new list in this program?

    • Author
      Jon Hall 4 months ago

      Yes this checklist is already in Scythebill. You will need to chose to update your taxonomy from within Scythebill and it should be quite straight forward.

  8. Vladimir Dinets 4 months ago

    In case you are not into birding, here’s the situation with bird checklists: https://smbasblog.com/2019/03/09/the-four-different-checklists-of-birds-of-the-world/

    I don’t have time to follow bird taxonomy as closely as mammal taxonomy, so I mostly used H&M checklist because it most strictly sticks to Biological Species Concept. But they stopped updating it a while ago, so now I’m halfway through switching to BOW-based checklist; takes a while because I check if changes are justified before accepting them.

    • Author
      Jon Hall 4 months ago

      Great – very useful article. And Eran Tomer (the author) has contributed to this site too.

  9. Héctor Gómez de Silva 4 months ago

    I am mostly a birder, secondarily a mammalwatcher. For birds, I use the Clements/eBird checklist which is updated once a year. I prefer the eBird/Clements checklist because I feel it is more balanced/scientific in that it does not accept as many splits (in line with Tomer’s superb analysis referred to in Vladimir Dint’s most recent message on this post)
    My bird life list is kept as an Excel spreadsheet and each year when the taxonomic update is published, I manually update the spreadsheet (it helps me keep informed of the latest changes, regardless of whether I’ve seen the relevant species or not). So I feel that Jon Hall does a superb job including in his taxonomic updates a list of taxonomic changes since the previous iterations of his mammalwatching checklist! It helps people following his list to update theirs.
    That being said, I have a problem. I started my mammal life list long before knowing of mammalwatching.com or IUCN taxonomy; I have it in the taxonomy of Wilson & Reeder (2005). Can anyone suggest a shortcut for me to update my list easily from that taxonomy to the mammalwatching or American Society of Mammalogists current taxonomy? (i.e. a list of the differences between W & R 2005 and the current ASM taxonomy)
    However, that said, I have a problem. I started

    • Author
      Jon Hall 4 months ago

      Thank you Hector. Glad you appreciate the list. I’m afraid I don’t know any easy way to move from the 2005 list to mine. I would do it by checking each species you have seen in the AMS database and see if the current range corresponds to where you saw each mammal. That is a slow painful process. However If you wanted to send me your list I in excel I could very quickly mark off the species that I know have not changed ….. so that would at least be a start and would shorten your list of things to check. Most changes are among rodents and bats.

      • Héctor Gómez de Silva 4 months ago

        Jon
        Thank you. I will do as you suggest (my mammal life list is not that long anyway, barely above 500). I will send you my list in a separate e-mail.
        Gracias.

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