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A brief review of the phylogeny and nomenclature of the weasels, genus Mustela Linnaeus, 1758 in the broad sense, indicates continuing confusion over the appropriate name for the well-supported American clade included within it. A case is made that the American mink (Neovison vison) and three allied species (Mustela frenata, M. felipei, and M. africana) should now be recognized in the genus Neogale Gray, 1865. The ages and morphological disparities of both Neogale and Mustela sensu stricto indicate that both are in need of comprehensive revisions.
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Journal of Animal Diversity
Volume 3, Issue 2 (2021)
Online ISSN
Review Article
This article is published with open access on | © Lorestan University Press 1
On the nomenclature of the American clade of weasels (Carnivora:
Bruce D. Patterson1*, Héctor E. Ramírez Chaves2, Júlio F. Vilela3, André E. R. Soares4
and Felix Grewe1
1Negaunee Integrative Research Center, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago IL 60605, USA
2Department of Biological Sciences, University of Caldas, Manizales, Caldas, Colombia
3Núcleo de História Natural da UFPI, Campus Amílcar Ferreira Sobral, Universidade Federal do Piauí –
UFPI BR343, Km 3,5 - Bairro Meladão, 64808-605, Floriano, PI, Brazil
4Department of Organismal Biology, Human Evolution, Evolutionsbiologiskt Centrum EBC, Norbyvägen18
A, Uppsala Universitet, 752 36, Uppsala, Sweden
*Corresponding author :
Received: 10 March 2021
Accepted: 23 March 2021
Published online: 14 April 2021
A brief review of the phylogeny and nomenclature of the weasels, genus Mustela
Linnaeus, 1758 in the broad sense, indicates continuing confusion over the
appropriate name for the well-supported American clade included within it. A
case is made that the American mink (Neovison vison) and three allied species
(Mustela frenata, M. felipei, and M. africana) should now be recognized in the
genus Neogale Gray, 1865. The ages and morphological disparities of both
eogale and Mustela sensu stricto indicate that both are in need o
comprehensive revisions.
Key words: Classification, Mammalia, phylogeny, synonymy, taxonomy
There is much confusion and little agreement over
the proper name for the American mink and its
immediate relatives. The American mink Neovison
vison (Schreber, 1777) was long considered to be a
member of the genus Mustela Linnaeus, 1758 (e.g.,
Palmer, 1904; Pocock, 1921; Hall, 1951; Jones et al.,
1997). On the basis of its distinctive morphology, the
American mink was removed from Mustela and
placed in its own genus Neovison by Abramov
(2000). Wozencraft (2005) followed Abramov’s
arrangement in Mammal Species of the World, and
the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species continues
to use Neovison vison for this species in 2021
However, there are issues with the use of Neovison.
On the basis on mitochondrial Cytochrome b
sequences, Harding and Smith (2009) showed that the
American mink, long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata
Lichtenstein, 1831), Colombian weasel (Mustela
felipei Izor and de la Torre, 1978), and Amazon weasel
(Mustela africana Desmarest, 1818) form a well-
supported clade that is sister to the remaining species
of Mustela. Harding and Smith (2009) concluded that
this group, which is endemic to the Americas (Fig. 1),
should be recognized as Vison Gray, 1843. Most
recently, Hassanin et al. (2021) analyzed numerous
carnivoran mitogenomes and confirmed the
membership of Neovison vison and Mustela frenata in
a clade outside the remaining species of Mustela, as
Dragoo and Honeycutt (1997), Koepfli and Wayne
(2003), Flynn et al. (2005), Koepfli et al. (2008),
Harding and Smith (2009), and others had previously
documented. Arguing that this group should be
recognized as a distinct genus, Hassanin et al. (2021)
contended that the correct group name should be
Grammogale Cabrera, 1940. Further complicating
matters of nomenclature, other scientists have
continued to recognize the American mink as Mustela
vison (Flynn et al., 2005; Law and Mehta, 2018; Law
et al., 2018; 2019; Burgin et al., 2020).
Nomenclature serves a crucial communication linkage
between scientists. When based on phylogenetic
Patterson et al. 2
Journal of Animal Diversity (2021) | © Lorestan University Press
Figure 1: Distributions of the four mustelid species
consistently recovered as a well-supported American
clade in Mustelinae: Neovison vison, Mustela
frenata, Mustela felipei, and Mustela africana.
Distributions from IUCN (2019).
relationships, nomenclature allows both the storage
and retrieval of biological information that is shared by
evolutionary descent (Mayr, 1969; Benton, 2007).
Inaccurate and unstable nomenclature serves to cloud
this information and hinder communication across
biological disciplines. Thus, the current nomenclatural
status of the American mink and related species
warrants scrutiny with respect to two determinations:
what group-name applies to this clade, and what
taxonomic rank should it be accorded?
What is the group name?
The generic name in current use for the American
mink, Neovison, is not supported by any published
phylogenetic analysis, and its use renders the genus
Mustela paraphyletic. Neovison was proposed as a
subgenus of Mustela on morphological grounds by
Baryshnikov and Abramov (1997), without an
accompanying phylogenetic analysis. These authors
also proposed the new subgenus Cabreragale for
Mustela felipei, recognized Mustela africana in the
subgenus Grammogale Cabrera, 1940, and retained
Mustela frenata in the nominate subgenus with
Mustela erminea Linnaeus, 1758. Abramov (2000)
subsequently elevated Neovison to generic rank and
presented an unsupported tree of relationships that
would justify his nomenclatural proposals: American
mink appeared as sister to all species of Mustela, M.
frenata and M. erminea were grouped as sisters, and
M. felipei and M. africana were only distantly
related. This topology for Mustela is contradicted by
all subsequent phylogenetic analyses, including
Koepfli and Wayne (2003), Flynn et al. (2005),
Koepfli et al. (2008), Harding and Smith (2009), Sato
et al. (2012), and Law et al. (2018; 2019). American
mink are sister to all other Mustela only in analyses
that lack its closer relatives M. frenata, M. felipei,
and M. africana. In the only analyses to include all
four species, Harding and Smith (2009) and Law et
al. (2018) recovered the well-supported grouping M.
vison (M. frenata (M. africana, M. felipei)) as sister
to all other species of Mustela. This arrangement
suggests the group’s successive southward
colonization of the Americas (see Fig. 1). What is the
oldest available name for this group?
In his catalogue of the mammals in the British
Museum, J. E. Gray (1843) proposed the name Vison
Lutreola for “The Mink or Nurek Vison,” specifying
its basis on Viverra Lutreola Linnaeus, the European
mink (Fig. 2). Nurek is a region in central Poland that
is included within the range of Mustela lutreola. The
other names listed in his account are attributed
synonyms of Vison lutreola. Harding and Smith
(2009) contended that, because Gray (1843) applied
this name to 5 specimens in the British Museum
collection, one collected in Siberia and the other four
from North America, Vison constituted the oldest
name for the American mink and its relatives and
should therefore serve as their group-name. But
Gray’s use of this name for American mink simply
reflected his mistaken judgement that the European
and American minks were conspecific; it does not
broaden the application of the group name. Gray
(1843) clearly designated Mustela lutreola as the
type species for Vison, as virtually all subsequent
authors have recognized (Baryshnikov and Abramov,
1997; Wozencraft, 2005; Hassanin et al., 2021).
In his subsequent revision of Mustelidae, Gray
(1865) divided the species of Mustela in the broad
sense into four genera: Mustela, Putorius Cuvier,
1817, Vison, and Gymnopus Gray, 1865. He further
divided his restricted Mustela into three groups by
proposing two new names as subgenera: (1) Mustela
sensu stricto, containing M. erminea, the type species
of the genus, including with it Mustela agilis
Tschudi, 1844, which is now regarded as a
subspecies of M. frenata (Wozencraft, 2005); (2)
Gale containing Mustela nivalis Linnaeus, 1766 as
well as M. altaica Pallas, 1811, M. subpalmata
Hemprich and Ehrenberg, 1833, and M. albinucha
Gray, 1864; and (3) Neogale containing various
forms of M. frenata. Interestingly, Gray gave
“American” in the group diagnosis of Neogale,
recognizing that its distribution in North and South
On the nomenclature of the American clade of weasels …
Journal of Animal Diversity (2021) | © Lorestan University Press 3
Figure 2: J. E. Gray’s 1843 description of the genus Vison, pages 64 and 65 in the 1843 List of the Specimens of
Mammalia in the Collection of the British Museum.
America differed from his Holarctic subgenera
Mustela and Gale. Gray’s genus Vison included as
separate species both the European and American
mink, as well as M. sibirica Pallas, 1773.
Gray (1865) also proposed the new genus Gymnopus
for the weasels with unusually naked feet: M. nudipes,
M. kathiah, M. strigidorsa, and M. africana. Cabrera
(1940) understood the type species of Gymnopus to be
M. nudipes, for the virtual tautonomy (in Latin and
Greek) represented by their names; M. nudipes was
also the first species he listed under the new genus. By
recognizing the Amazon weasel in Gymnopus, Gray
placed the three known species of the American clade
in three separate genera.
The only remaining genus-group name for these
weasels was proposed 75 years later by Angel
Cabrera (1940). Cabrera recognized that the unique
external (ventral stripe) and dental (loss/reduction of
anterior premolar) characters of M. africana clearly
separated it from M. nudipes, the type species of
Gymnopus, and other Old World weasels. He
proposed the name Grammogale for M. africana,
Patterson et al. 4
Journal of Animal Diversity (2021), 3 (2): 1–8 |
considering the genus monotypic. The other weasel
species endemic to South America, M. felipei, was
not discovered and named until 1978 (Izor and De La
Torre, 1978). Sharing naked foot soles, extensive
interdigital webbing, a trifid tip to the baculum, and
reduced anterior premolars with the Amazon weasel,
the Colombian weasel was described in the subgenus
Grammogale. The two South American species
appear as sisters in the published phylogenies
(Harding and Smith, 2009; Law et al., 2018), joined
successively by pan-american M. frenata and the
Nearctic American mink (Fig. 1).
Figure 3: J. E. Gray’s 1865 description of the subgenus Neogale, pages 114–115 in the Proceedings of the
Zoological Society of London for 1865.
On the nomenclature of the American clade of weasels …
Journal of Animal Diversity (2021) | © Lorestan University Press 5
Thus, each of the four species in the American clade
of weasels is the type species for a genus-group
name: vison for Neovison Baryshnikov and Abramov,
1997, frenata for Neogale Gray, 1865, africana for
Grammogale Cabrera, 1940, and felipei for
Cabreragale Baryshnikov and Abramov, 1997.
Clearly, the senior name for this group is Neogale,
and Grammogale, Cabreragale, and Neovison should
all be considered its subjective synonyms. As earlier
noted, the synonymy of Vison Gray, 1843 follows the
generic allocation of its type species, M. lutreola; it is
currently in the synonymy of Mustela, listed there as
an objective synonym of Lutreola Wagner, 1841.
At what rank should it be recognized?
The advent of molecular genetics has given
systematists access to an abundance of characters,
and quantitative phylogenetic methods enable
identifying even very fine degrees of relationship.
This raises the questions: which of those degrees
warrant recognition as groups and at what rank
should they be recognized? Because Linnaean
binomials are used throughout the biological
sciences, nomenclatural changes involving genus and
species are especially disruptive, altering usage and
impeding communication.
Although the rank of all higher taxa is subjective,
categories are most informative when closely related
organisms are ranked by the same age or divergence
criteria. This comparability heightens the information
storage-retrieval capacity of nomenclature. Time of
divergence is an important criterion, signaling the
time of evolutionary independence between lineages
and their opportunities for the acquisition of novel
traits. A number of studies, including Koepfli et al.
(2008), Sato et al. (2012), Law et al. (2018), and
Hassanin et al. (2021), have published estimates of
divergence times for the genera and species of
Mustelidae (Table 1). Having different taxon
sampling schemes, fossil calibrations, and inference
methodologies, some were based on both nuclear and
mitochondrial loci (Koepfli et al., 2008; Sato et al.,
2012; Law et al., 2018), whereas that of Hassanin et
al. (2021) was based solely on mitochondrial
sequences. The absolute dates of these estimates
vary, with those based on mitogenomes typically far
older than those based on also nuclear loci, which are
inter se largely concordant. And of course, stem age
estimates are older than crown age estimates, as they
include time since divergence from a sister.
Nevertheless, comparisons of divergence estimates
by each of these studies document the relative
antiquity of the split between Mustela and Neogale.
In all of these chronograms, the divergence of
Mustela and Neogale preceded the appearance of any
genus of otters (Lutrinae) save Pteronura Gray,
1837, or the genera Ictonyx Kaup, 1835, Poecilogale
Thomas, 1883, Vormela Blasius, 1884, Melogale
Geoffroy, 1831, or Martes Frisch, 1775. In the
Guloninae, only Pekania Gray, 1865 and Eira Smith,
1842 are older. Few mustelid genera are as old as
Neogale and Mustela are certainly old enough to be
recognized as genera, as Hassanin et al. (2021) also
recognized, albeit with the name Grammogale. How
does the content of these genera, meaning their
internal heterogeneity, compare to that of other
mustelids? Species of Mustela sensu stricto began
diversifying soon after the divergence of Neogale
(Table 1). The only sampled mustelid genus with a
comparably old crown radiation of species is Martes.
Crown ages of other sampled mustelid genera are
roughly half as old (e.g., dates for Lutra, Lontra,
Meles, and Melogale). The divergence of extant
Neogale species (initiated by the split between vison
and frenata) also preceded splits in most of these
polytypic genera (Table 1). Neogale is old enough to
warrant recognition as a valid genus; in fact, few
mustelid genera are as old. And the speciation events
that gave rise to its four extant species are old enough
to rank Neogale among the more encompassing and
potentially diversified genera.
Both the age of Neogale and the age of its component
species relative to other mustelid groups argue
against recognizing Neogale as a subgenus of
Mustela. Like genera, subgenera are governed by the
rules of the International Commission on Zoological
Nomenclature (, so that their usage is
constrained, and their stability promoted, by
typification and priority (cf. Voss et al., 2014; Teta,
2018). Use of the subgenus category permits authors
to identify clades within genera in a manner that does
not disrupt the customary use of binomial
nomenclature. Recognizing Neogale as a subgenus of
Mustela (i.e., Mustela (Neogale) vison, M. (N.)
frenata, M. (N.) felipei, and M. (N.) africana) would
conserve traditional usage of their binomials. But this
group is older and encompasses more genetic
diversity than all but a few other mustelid genera.
Even its most recently diverged species, Neogale
felipei and N. africana, differ substantially from each
other and from N. frenata in color pattern, bacular
shape, and even dental formulae (Izor and de la
Torre, 1978). The group’s morphological disparity is
so great that molecular phylogenies were needed to
identify American mink as a member of this group.
With the phylogenetic relationships of Neogale now
well established (e.g., Law et al., 2018), the time is
ripe to identify its morphological synapomorphies
and provide a robust group diagnosis.
The American distribution of Neogale (Fig. 1) also
deserves mention, as both Gray (1865) and Harding
and Smith (2009) clearly recognized. In their analysis
of mustelid biogeography, Koepfli et al. (2008; see
their Figure 3) noted a repeated pattern of basal splits
between New World and Old World clades in four
subfamilies: Lutrinae, Mustelinae, Ictonychinae, and
Guloninae. In each subfamily, except for the
Mustelinae, taxonomists had recognized that split by
Patterson et al. 6
Journal of Animal Diversity (2021), 3 (2): 1–8 |
assigning members in each hemisphere to different
genera. Recognizing Neogale as a valid genus that is
sister to the largely Old World Mustela brings
equivalent rank and taxonomic conformity to the
pattern of late Miocene divergences that Koepfli et
al. (2008) identified.
Table 1: Age of Mustelidae genera as estimated from molecular phylogenies, in millions of years. The studies
differed in taxonomic sampling, genetic sampling, fossil calibrations, and prior distributions. Crown ages for
genera are reported where two or more congeners were sampled; crown plus stem ages are indicated by asterisk
(*). Subfamily classification follows Nascimento (2014) and Koepfli et al. (2017).
Taxa Koepfli et al.
(2008)1 Sato et al.
(2012)2 Law et al.
(2018)3 Hassanin et al.
Mustelinae Neogale 3.3–3.2 6.56* 4.11 7.4–6.5
Mustelinae Mustela 5.3–5.0 6.3 7.35 11.8–10.3
Mustelinae Mustela-Neogale 6.2–6.0* 7.13* 8.69* 13.4–11.8
Lutrinae Lutra 1.8 4 1.67 3.8–3.4
Lutrinae Lutrogale 1.4–1.3* 1.59* 3.9–3.4*
Lutrinae Aonyx 2.7–2.4 4* 3.11 3.9–3.4*
Lutrinae Enhyra 5.0–4.8* 5.76* 6.19* 12.8–11.2
Lutrinae Lontra 3.4–2.8 2.25 3.37 15.4–13.5*
Lutrinae Pteronura 7.7–7.4* 9.96*
Ictonychinae Poecilogale 2.7–2.2* 4.27* 3.87* 8.1–7.1
Ictonychinae Ictonyx 2.7–2.2* 4.85* 5.12* 8.1–7.1
Ictonychinae Vormela 4.6–4.0* 6.48* 7.12*
Ictonychinae Galictis 3
2.8 2.03 2.96 15.9
Helictinae Melogale 2.5–2.2 12.5* 3.96 1.9–1.7
Guloninae Martes 5.1–4.7 6.56 5.79 10.8–9.4
Guloninae Gulo 6.2–5.6* 7.3* 6.5* 12.1–10.6*
Guloninae Pekania 7.2–6.4* 7.9* 6.03* 14.2–12.4*
Guloninae Eira 7.7–6.7* 6.03*
Melinae Arctonyx 4.4–3.6* 3.28* 4.54* 8–7*
Melinae Meles 4.4–3.6* 1.94 2.5 4.9–4.3
Mellivorinae Mellivora 12.6–12.4* 12.55* 15.49* 22.5–19.6*
1 Range of five estimates; data from their Table 2.
2 Posterior mean from BEAST analysis; their Figure 3.
3 Posterior mean of FBD model; data from their Supplementary Table S7.
4 Range includes uniform and log-normal priors from their Figure 3.
Even after the removal of Neogale, Mustela sensu
stricto remains an old and diverse genus. Long ago,
Izor and de la Torre (1978) observed “Mustela is in
many respects a primitive mustelid, retaining most of
the family's basic characters. For this reason, care
must be exercised so that it does not become a
catchall genus, collecting diverse, structurally
generalized species without true phylogenetic
affinities.” Molecular phylogenies have confirmed
their suspicions that this is an old and disparate group,
one characterized mainly by plesiomorphies. A
grouping that Gray (1865) recognized as Gymnopus
(M. nudipes + M. strigidorsa) is consistently recovered
as the oldest split within Mustela (Koepfli et al., 2008;
Sato et al., 2012; Law et al., 2018), perhaps warranting
recognition as a valid genus.
However, the antiquity of the weasel radiation, its
highly variable morphologies, and its still-incomplete
phylogeny warrant a truly comprehensive revision,
which has not been attempted since molecular
phylogenies have resolved natural groupings.
Analyses of morphology, genetics and other
biological traits resulting in new diagnoses should be
possible through an integrative taxonomic revision.
The lead author thanks Pancho Prevosti and Marcos
Ercoli for help in locating a virtual copy of Cabrera
(1940). The constructive criticisms and suggestions
by an anonymous reviewer greatly improved the
quality of this article.
Conflict of interest
All the authors declare that there are no conflicting
issues related to this Review article.
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Press, Washington DC. pp. 532–628.
... The American weasels, genus Neogale Gray, 1865, which until recently were considered members of Mustela Linnaeus, 1758, comprise a clade of highly mobile carnivores with an extraordinary evolutionary history (Koepfli et al. 2008;Patterson et al. 2021). The four species of the genus are distributed across diverse habitat types, from the Arctic Circle to tropical rainforests, and have reached most latitudes in the Western Hemisphere (Burgin et al. 2020). ...
... The four species of the genus are distributed across diverse habitat types, from the Arctic Circle to tropical rainforests, and have reached most latitudes in the Western Hemisphere (Burgin et al. 2020). From a biogeographical perspective, the distribution of most Neogale species is well defined (Patterson et al. 2021). For instance, Long-tailed Weasel, Neogale frenata (Lichtenstein, 1831), is the most widely distributed member of the genus, inhabiting from nearly intact forests to semi-urbanized areas (Harding and Dragoo 2012). ...
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The Colombian weasel, Neogale felipei (Izor & de la Torre, 1978), is one of the most enigmatic and threatened carni-vores in South America, with only six confirmed records in the Andes of Ecuador and Colombia. During a long-term trail camera survey conducted at Mesenia-Paramillo Natural Reserve, we recorded the northernmost occurrence of the species, which extends its distribution by approximately 120 km to the north from the nearest previously known locality in Colombia. We also provide some comments on its natural history.
... Weasels are small carnivores distributed across the globe from temperate to tropical forests, savannas, and most habitats in between (Wilson and Ruff 1999, Feldhamer et al. 2003). In North America, three species of weasel occur: the short-tailed weasel, also called ermine or stoat (Mustela erminea), the least weasel or common weasel (Mustela nivalis), and the long-tailed weasel (Neogale frenata) (King and Powell 2007, ASM 2021, Patterson et al. 2021). Maine, located in the northeastern United States, is home to short-tailed and long-tailed weasels. ...
... eastern Montana and western North Dakota) (King andPowell 2007, Reid et al. 2016). Long-tailed weasels are a new world lineage (Nyakatura and Bininda-Emonds 2012), hence the proposed revision of the genus from Mustela to Neogale (Patterson et al. 2021). Their distribution extends into Canada, across the United States (though potentially limited to areas with access to fresh water [Henderson 1994, Johnston et al. 2019) and into western South America . ...
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Understanding trends in the abundance and distribution of carnivores is important at global, regional and local scales due to their ecological role, their aesthetic and economic value, and the numerous threats to their populations. Carnivores in Maine range from the American black bear (Ursus americanus), to numerous native mesocarnivore species, such as American marten (Martes americana), fisher (Pekania pennanti), coyote (Canis latrans), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), bobcat (Lynx rufus), Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) and to two small weasel species (Mustela erminea and Neogale frenata). Though smaller than their apex carnivore cousins, Mesocarnivores are essential components of ecosystems and have complex impacts on prey species and intraguild dynamics. However, these species can vary in how they respond to human disturbances, from direct declines due to unregulated harvest and habitat loss, and their ability to adapt to land-use change. Maine is a working landscape which provides habitat for diverse wildlife species coincident with extensive forest harvest industries, as well as tourism and recreation. The intensity, timing, and configuration of harvest activities all interact to modify the landscape, with cascading impacts on the distribution of many animals. Forest management practices have changed through time (Maine Forest Service 2003) with potentially unpredictable outcomes (e.g. Simons 2009). However, the extent to which carnivore species adapt to land use change is a key knowledge gap that needs to be addressed to ensure proper management and conservation going forward. I investigated these patterns by designing a natural experiment across the forested landscape of Maine, and by collecting detection data on multiple species at camera trapping survey stations deployed along a gradient of forest disturbance. My dissertation aims to collect broad-scale, relevant information for carnivore management and conservation, and assess the efficacy of motion-triggered trail cameras for long-term monitoring. My work is divided into four sections, reflected by the four chapters included in the dissertation. My first goal was to determine the optimal number and configuration of camera-trap transects, to balance between reasonable effort expended and high-quality data collection. I used multi-method occupancy analyses to compare between one, two or three camera units spaced either 100 m or 150 m apart. We found that a design with three cameras spaced 100 m apart increased detection probabilities up to five-fold over a single camera trap, and thus used this configuration for the duration of the following research. Once the survey unit was selected, I established a large-scale, multi-year camera trapping regimen across the northern two-thirds of Maine. Survey sites were selected in compliance with a natural experimental design, replicating across all combinations of a) forest disturbance intensity, b) latitude, and c) fur trapping harvest reports for key furbearing species. In the second chapter I present this study design in more detail, and use the resulting data to investigate the interspecies dynamics of marten and fisher, two species of interest to the state of Maine that co-exist in several geographic areas and partition habitat in distinct ways. Both species are sensitive to habitat change resulting from timber harvest, which was a more important factor in occupancy patterns than intraguild dynamics. In chapter three, I took advantage of the large data set I collected to provide a landscape scale understanding of long-tailed and short-tailed weasel distribution patterns in the face of habitat change. Both of these species are poorly studied, and may be in decline in North American. My results indicate that short-tailed weasel are widespread in Maine and do not appear limited by forest harvest practices, while long-tailed weasel are rarer and more apt to be present in southern Maine. Finally in chapter four I ran models incorporating multiple states for species occupancy, beyond mere present or absent, to understand the dynamics of black bears and of black bear reproduction across managed forests in Maine. I found that generally disturbance at a small scale was positively associated with both occupancy and probability of reproduction, while the availability of hardwood trees (an important food source for bears) was also positively linked to the probability of female bears being with cubs. In addition to meeting our stake holder needs for informed management guidelines, I hope that many of my findings will be directly relevant to the broader research community—as camera trapping equipment becomes more affordable, it will become feasible to both monitor and rigorously study wildlife populations in remote locations and under many scenarios of human land-use.
... Taxonomic Note: Patterson et al. (2021) has advocated replacing Mustela with Neogale as the generic name for the long-tailed weasel. This checklist retains the use of Mustela. ...
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An annotated checklist of the terrestrial mammals of Los Angeles County was compiled, based on over 10,000 museum records spanning over 100 years of scientific research. Part 1 covered 42 species in the orders Didelphimorphia, Lagomorpha, and Rodentia. Part II provides an annotated list and abbreviated synonymies for 46 species of terrestrial mammals in the orders Eulipotyphla, Carnivora, Artiodactyla, and Chiroptera.
... The North American mink (Neogale vison, formerly Neovison vison) [1] and river otter (Lontra canadensis) are aquatic meso-carnivores in North America. Both are also important sentinel species because of their predominantly piscivorous diet [2]. ...
Corynosoma strumosum (Acanthocephala), a widespread parasite of pinnipeds, is reported in marine foraging North American mink (Neogale vison) and river otter (Lontra canadensis) on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. This is the first confirmed case of infection by C. strumosum in river otters on the west coast of North America and may be the first confirmed case of infection in wild North American mink; C. strumosum has previously been reported in river otters in Europe (Lutra lutra) and in farmed mink fed with marine fish. We also detected a case of acanthocephalan associated peritonitis in a juvenile mink. Furthermore, though infections with Corynosoma spp. are often assumed to be accidental in mustelids, some C. strumosum individuals found in mink showed signs of reproductive activity. These findings indicate that mink may be a competent definitive host and represent a reservoir in coastal habitats although further research is needed to confirm this. Investigating whether river otters may be competent hosts and determine the prevalence of infection in coastal populations would determine the potential implications of C. strumosum for coastal otters and minks. Our report indicates that mink and possibly river otter living in coastal areas are vulnerable to this previously unreported parasitic infection with mortality risk, at least in juvenile individuals.
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Sable (Martes zibellina) and American mink (Neogale vison) are valuable species characterized by a variety of coat colour produced on fur farms. Black crystal fur phenotype is Mendelian codominant trait: heterozygous animals (Cr/ +) have white guard hairs scattered predominantly on the spine and the head, while homozygous (Cr/Cr) minks have coats resembling the Himalayan (ch/ch) or white Hedlund (h/h) types. It is one of the most recent of more than 35 currently known phenotypic traits of fur colour in American mink. Black crystal fur phenotype was first described in 1984 in the Russian population of mink, which had undergone selection for domestic defensive response to humans. Here, we performed whole-genome sequencing of American mink with Cr/Cr phenotype. We identified a missense mutation in the gene encoding the α-COP subunit of the COPI complex (COPA). The COPI complex mediates retrograde trafficking from the Golgi system to the endoplasmic reticulum and sorting of transmembrane proteins. We observed an interaction between a newly identified mutation in the COPA gene and a mutation in the microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF), the latter mutation led to the formation of the white Hedlund (h/h) phenotype. Double heterozygotes for these mutations have an entirely white coat and a black-eyed phenotype similar to the phenotype of Cr/Cr or h/h minks. Our data could be useful for tracking economically valuable fur traits in mink breeding programs to contribute to global fur production.
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We present an updated of the official checklist of mammals of Ecuador. We follow a taxonomic ordering for the suprageneric categories, but alphabetically for the lower levels. We incorporate and indicate the taxonomic changes that have occurred since the last version published in December 2021. For the elaboration of this list a we kept a constant review of the scientific literature generated and the taxonomic changes that had occurred. The current version of the list of mammals of Ecuador includes 465 native species belonging to 13 orders, 52 families and 208 genera. The mammalian orders with the greatest richness in Ecuador are Chiroptera (178 species), Rodentia (134), Artiodactyla (40) and Carnivora (36). We also document 26 additional species that are expected for the Ecuadorian fauna. In addition, we list the corresponding subspecies for the mammals of Ecuador, the endemic species (57), extinct (3), present in the Ecuadorian Antarctic zone (11) and those introduced to the country (18).
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La actualización de la lista de especies presentes en un país es una tarea continua que llena vacíos de información y apoya la toma de decisiones. En los últimos cinco años, ha habido un aumento del número de especies de mamíferos descritas como nuevas en Colombia, así como primeros registros y cambios taxonómicos. Con el fin de actualizar la información de las especies de mamíferos de Colombia, realizamos una revisión exhaustiva de los cambios taxonómicos de las 528 especies registradas en listas previas. Agregamos nuevas especies descritas, así como nuevos registros de especies ya descritas. Discutimos especies cuya presencia ha sido sugerida recientemente en Colombia, pero que no es respaldada por especímenes de museo. La lista actual de mamíferos en Colombia tiene 543 especies, con cuatro descritas en el último año. Esperamos que la lista sea una herramienta apoyar las necesidades de investigación, en especial las extensiones de distribución, los problemas taxonómicos y la conservación de los mamíferos del país. Finalmente, recomendamos que las actualizaciones de la lista sigan estándares nacionales e internacionales como Darwin Core, utilizado por el Repositorio de Información Global sobre Biodiversidad - GBIF, y el Sistema de Información sobre Biodiversidad de Colombia – SiB.
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We present an updated version of the official checklist of mammals from Ecuador. We follow a taxonomic ordering for the suprageneric categories, but alphabetical for lower levels. We incorporate and indicate taxonomic changes that have occurred since the last versión published in May 2021. For the elaboration of this list a constant review of the scientific literature generated and taxonomic changes that have occurred. The current version of the list of mammals of Ecuador includes 456 native species, belonging to 13 orders, 52 families, and 207 genera. The mammalian orders with the highest richness in Ecuador are Chiroptera (177 species), Rodentia (126), Artiodactyla (40), and Carnivora (36). We also document another 29 expected species, 53 endemics, three extincts, 11 present in the Ecuadorian Antarctic zone, and 17 species introduced to the country. Presentamos una actualización de la lista oficial de mamíferos del Ecuador. Seguimos un ordenamiento taxonómico para las categorías supragenéricas, pero alfabético para los niveles inferiores. Incorporamos y señalamos los cambios taxonómicos ocurridos desde la última versión publicada en mayo de 2021. Para la elaboración de esta lista mantenemos una constante revisión de las publicaciones científicas generadas y los cambios taxonómicos ocurridos. La actual versión de la lista de mamíferos del Ecuador incluye 456 especies nativas, pertenecientes a 13 órdenes, 52 familias y 207 géneros. Los órdenes de mamíferos con la mayor riqueza en Ecuador son Chiroptera (177 especies), Rodentia (126), Artiodactyla (40) y Carnivora (36). También documentamos otras 29 especies esperadas, 52 endémicas, tres extintas, 11 presentes en la zona antártica ecuatoriana y 17 especies introducidas al país.
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La lista de mamíferos del Perú más reciente, publicada en el año 2020, compiló un total de 569 especies y 82 especies endémicas, sin embargo, en corto tiempo varios cambios taxonómicos han ocurrido y obligan a presentar otra lista actualizada de todas las especies de mamíferos con registros en el Perú. Esta nueva lista actualizada hasta noviembre de 2021 incluye 573 especies, 223 géneros, 51 familias y 13 órdenes: Didelphimorphia (47), Paucituberculata (2), Sirenia (1), Cingulata (5), Pilosa (7), Primates (42), Lagomorpha (2), Eulipotyphla (3), Carnivora (33), Perissodactyla (2), Artiodactyla (46, incluyendo 32 cetáceos), Rodentia (194) y Chiroptera (189); de las cuales, 87 especies son endémicas para el país. Por otro lado, la necesidad de contar con listas taxonómicas válidas y actualizadas para el uso en toma de decisiones, nos lleva a proponer como una estrategia óptima que la Asociación de Mastozoólogos del Perú (AMP) asuma el rol de mantener actualizada una lista que cubra las necesidades de los diferentes usuarios, tal como organizaciones similares lo vienen haciendo en países vecinos con el apoyo del Estado y ONGs.
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Small carnivores are of increasing conservation concern globally, including those formerly thought to be widespread and abundant. Three weasel species (Mustela nivalis, M. frenata, and M. erminea) are distributed across most of North America, yet several recent studies have reported difficulty detecting weasels within their historical range and several states have revised the status of weasels to that of species of conservation concern. To investigate the status and trends of weasels across the United States (US) and Canada, we analyzed four separate datasets: historical harvests, museum collections, citizen scientist observations (iNaturalist), and a recent US-wide trail camera survey. We observed 87-94% declines in weasel harvest across North America over the past 60 years. Declining trapper numbers and shifts in trapping practices likely partially explain the decline in harvest. Nonetheless, after accounting for trapper effort and pelt price, we still detected a significant decline in weasel harvest for 15 of 22 evaluated states and provinces. Comparisons of recent and historical museum and observational records suggest relatively consistent distributions for M. erminea, but a current range gap of >1000 km between two distinct populations of M. nivalis. We observed a dramatic drop-off in M. frenata records since 2000 in portions of its central, Great Lakes, and southern distribution, despite extensive sampling effort. In 2019, systematic trail camera surveys at 1509 sites in 50 US states detected weasels at 14 sites, all of which were above 40o latitude. While none of these datasets are individually conclusive, they collectively support the hypothesis that weasel populations have declined in North America and highlight the need for improved methods for detecting and monitoring weasels. By identifying population declines for small carnivores that were formerly abundant across North America, our findings echo recent calls to expand investigations into the conservation need of small carnivores globally.
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The order Carnivora, which currently includes 296 species classified into 16 families, is distributed across all continents. The phylogeny and the timing of diversification of members of the order are still a matter of debate. Here, complete mitochondrial genomes were analysed to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships and to estimate divergence times among species of Carnivora. We assembled 51 new mitogenomes from 13 families, and aligned them with available mitogenomes by selecting only those showing more than 1% of nucleotide divergence and excluding those suspected to be of low-quality or from misidentified taxa. Our final alignment included 220 taxa representing 2,442 mitogenomes. Our analyses led to a robust resolution of suprafamilial and intrafamilial relationships. We identified 21 fossil calibration points to estimate a molecular timescale for carnivorans. According to our divergence time estimates, crown carnivorans appeared during or just after the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum; all major groups of Caniformia (Cynoidea/Arctoidea; Ursidae; Musteloidea/Pinnipedia) diverged from each other during the Eocene, while all major groups of Feliformia (Nandiniidae; Feloidea; Viverroidea) diversified more recently during the Oligocene, with a basal divergence of Nandinia at the Eocene/Oligocene transition; intrafamilial divergences occurred during the Miocene, except for the Procyonidae, as Potos separated from other genera during the Oligocene.
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Adaptive radiation is hypothesized to be a primary mechanism that drives the remarkable species diversity and morphological disparity across the Tree of Life. Tests for adaptive radiation in extant taxa are traditionally estimated from calibrated molecular phylogenies with little input from extinct taxa. With 85 putative species in 33 genera and over 400 described extinct species, the carnivoran superfamily Musteloidea is a prime candidate to investigate patterns of adaptive radiation using both extant- and fossil-based macroevolutionary methods. The species diversity and equally impressive ecological and phenotypic diversity found across Musteloidea is often attributed to 2 adaptive radiations coinciding with 2 major climate events, the Eocene-Oligocene transition and the Mid-Miocene Climate Transition. Here, we compiled a novel time-scaled phylogeny for 88% of extant musteloids and used it as a framework for testing the predictions of adaptive radiation hypotheses with respect to rates of lineage diversification and phenotypic evolution. Contrary to expectations, we found no evidence for rapid bursts of lineage diversification at the origin of Musteloidea, and further analyses of lineage diversification rates using molecular and fossil-based methods did not find associations between rates of lineage diversification and the Eocene-Oligocene transition or Mid-Miocene Climate Transition as previously hypothesized. Rather, we found support for decoupled diversification dynamics driven by increased clade carrying capacity in the branches leading to a subclade of elongate mustelids. Supporting decoupled diversification dynamics between the subclade of elongate mustelids and the ancestral musteloid regime is our finding of increased rates of body length evolution, but not body mass evolution, within the decoupled mustelid subclade. The lack of correspondence in rates of body mass and length evolution suggest that phenotypic evolutionary rates under a single morphological metric, even one as influential as mass, may not capture the evolution of diversity in clades that exhibit elongate body shapes. The discordance in evolutionary rates between body length and body mass along with evidence of decoupled diversification dynamics suggests that body elongation might be an innovation for the exploitation of novel Mid-Miocene resources, resulting in the radiation of some musteloids.
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To resolve phylogenetic relationships among species of Marmosa we analyzed DNA sequences from one mitochondrial and three nuclear genes for every member of the nominotypical subgenus and from four species of the subgenus Micoureus. As reported in previous studies, the subgenus Marmosa was found to be paraphyletic, whereas Micoureus was recovered as a robustly supported clade. Species currently referred to the subgenus Marmosa form four strongly supported and morphologically diagnosable groups. Based on these results we recognize a total of five subgenera: Marmosa Gray, 1821 (for macrotarsus, murina, tyleriana, and waterhousei); Micoureus Lesson, 1842 (for alstoni, constantiae, demerarae, paraguayana, phaea, and regina); Stegomarmosa Pine, 1972 (for andersoni and lepida); Eomarmosa, new subgenus (for rubra); and Exulomarmosa, new subgenus (for isthmica, mexicana, robinsoni, simonsi, xerophila, and zeledoni). The best-supported hypothesis of relationships among these clades is ((Stegomarmosa (Marmosa + Micoureus)) (Eomarmosa + Exulomarmosa)), and our results additionally resolve many interspecific relationships within each subgenus. These clades have broadly overlapping geographic distributions, especially in western Amazonia, where the arboreal insectivorous-frugivorous niche of Marmosa is apparently partitioned among multiple sympatric congeners.
An elongate body with reduced or absent limbs has evolved independently in many ectothermic vertebrate lineages. While much effort has been spent examining the morphological pathways to elongation in these clades, quantitative investigations into the evolution of elongation in endothermic clades are lacking. We quantified body shape in 61 musteloid mammals (red panda, skunks, raccoons, and weasels) using the head‐body elongation ratio. We also examined the morphological changes that may underlie the evolution towards more extreme body plans. We found that a mustelid clade comprised of the subfamilies Helictidinae, Guloninae, Ictonychinae, Mustelinae, and Lutrinae exhibited an evolutionary transition towards more elongate bodies. Furthermore, we discovered that elongation of the body is associated with the evolution of other key traits such as a reduction in body size and a reduction in forelimb length but not hindlimb length. This relationship between body elongation and forelimb length has not previously been quantitatively established for mammals but is consistent with trends exhibited by ectothermic vertebrates and suggests a common pattern of trait covariance associated with body shape evolution. This study provides the framework for documenting body shapes across a wider range of mammalian clades to better understand the morphological changes influencing shape disparity across all vertebrates. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
In this note, I discuss the advantages of the usage of subgenera as a practical taxonomic rank in mammalian taxonomy. Use of this category preserves traditional usage, reduces nomenclatural instability and avoids unnecessary change of names. Subgenera are useful to label diagnosable clades of closely related species, especially in morphologically and ecologically diverse monophyletic genera, without alteration of traditional binomial usage. Contrary to informal names such as “divisions” or “groups”, subgenera are governed by the rules of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), having usage constrained (and stability promoted) by typification and priority.
A new species of Mustela, subgenus Grammogale, is described. It is characterized by dark, uniform dorsal coloration, reduced anterior premolars, and a wide mesopterygoid fossa. a range extension is recorded for Mustela africana, and an overall evolutionary scheme for the three Neotropical species of Mustela is proposed.