Phylogeny and taxonomy of the round-eared sengis or elephant-shrews, genus Macroscelides (Mammalia, Afrotheria, Macroscelidea)

Dumbacher J.P. ; Rathbun G.B. ; Smit H.A. ; Eiseb S.J. (2012)


The round-eared sengis or elephant-shrews (genus Macroscelides) exhibit striking pelage variation throughout their ranges. Over ten taxonomic names have been proposed to describe this variation, but currently only two taxa are recognized (M. proboscideus proboscideus and M. p. flavicaudatus). Here, we review the taxonomic history of Macroscelides, and we use data on the geographic distribution, morphology, and mitochondrial DNA sequence to evaluate the current taxonomy. Our data support only two taxa that correspond to the currently recognized subspecies M. p. proboscideus and M. p. flavicaudatus. Mitochondrial haplotypes of these two taxa are reciprocally monophyletic with over 13% uncorrected sequence divergence between them. PCA analysis of 14 morphological characters (mostly cranial) grouped the two taxa into non-overlapping clusters, and body mass alone is a relatively reliable distinguishing character throughout much of Macroscelides range. Although fieldworkers were unable to find sympatric populations, the two taxa were found within 50 km of each other, and genetic analysis showed no evidence of gene flow. Based upon corroborating genetic data, morphological data, near sympatry with no evidence of gene flow, and differences in habitat use, we elevate these two forms to full species. © 2012 Dumbacher et al.

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