A new species of elephant-shrew (Afrotheria: Macroscelidea: Elephantulus) from South Africa
Jansen van Vuuren, B.
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Elephant-shrews (also called sengis, order Macroscelidea) are small-bodied insectivorous mammals with a strictly African distribution. Fifteen species currently are recognized, of which 9 occur in the southern African subregion. On the basis of molecular, cytogenetic, and morphological evidence, Elephantulus edwardii, the only strictly South African endemic species, is shown to comprise 2 closely related taxa. The new Elephantulus taxon described herein is from the central Nama-Karoo region of Western Cape and Northern Cape Provinces. Important genetic distinctions underpin its delimitation. Sequence data from the mitochondrial cytochrome-b gene and the hypervariable control region as well as 7th intron of the nuclear fibrinogen gene show these 2 taxa to be reciprocally monophyletic. They are separated by 13.8% sequence divergence (uncorrected) based on the 2 mitochondrial segments, and 4.2% based on the nuclear intron sequences. In addition, fixed cytogenetic differences include a centromeric shift, heterochromatic differences on autosomal pairs 1–6, and the number of nucleolar organizer regions. The new species has several subtle morphological and phenotypic characters that distinguish it from its sibling species E. edwardii, the most striking of which is the presence of a tail-tuft, as well as the color of the flanks and the ventral pelage. The abundance, detailed distribution of the new form, and its life-history characteristics are not known, and further studies clearly are needed to determine its conservation status.