Taxonomic anarchy or an inconvenient truth for conservation? Accelerated species discovery reveals evolutionary patterns and heightened extinction threat in Afro-Malagasy small mammals
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We respond to recent criticisms of supposed “taxonomic anarchy” which is said to hamper conservation efforts. Using examples from African small mammals, we document recent increases of 13% (rodents) and 18% (bats) over the past three decades in the number of recognized species of Afro-Malagasy rodents and bats. By reference to a number of case studies involving Afro-Malagasy taxa (predominantly from montane habitats), and a suggested four-criterion approach to delimiting species accurately, we show that these increases are a genuine reflection of speciation in cryptic species complexes. Moreover, we show that some of these cryptic species are subject to increased extinction risks due to small population size and anthropogenic changes (habitat degradation and climate change). These changes were captured accurately in a recent Mammal Red List of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, indicating that taxonomists and conservationists can work together to assess the Red List status of cryptic species based on robust taxonomic revisions.
- RESEARCH: Taylor, P