Tuesday, February 28, 2017

[Mammalogy • 2017] Sciurus meridionalis • New Endemic Mammal Species (Rodentia, Sciuridae) for Europe


 Sciurus meridionalisLucifero 1907  
summer coat, from Sila massif, Calabria, Italy.

 Photograph by Antonio Mancuso  

Abstract

Combining genetic, morphological and geographical data, we re-evaluate Sciurus meridionalis, Lucifero 1907 as a tree squirrel species. The species, previously considered a subspecies of the Eurasian red squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris, is endemic to South Italy with a disjunct distribution with respect to S. vulgaris. The new species has a typical, monomorphic coat colour characterized by a white ventral fur and a very dark-brown to blackish fur on the back, sides and tail. Specimens of S. meridionalis have a larger hind foot length and weigh about 35% more than live-caught S. vulgaris from northern Italy. S. meridionalis is larger than S. vulgaris specimens from three other regions in Italy for mandible length, skull width and skull (condylobasal) length, and principal component scores indicate significant shape differences of specimens from the Calabria population (S. meridionalis) compared to all other specimens (S. vulgaris). These morphological differences are further supported by genetic evidence at three mitochondrial markers (D-loop, cytochrome b and the DNA barcoding region COI) using the widest molecular dataset ever assembled for Sciurus vulgaris and S. meridionalis. All the investigated markers revealed exclusive haplotypes for S. meridionalis well separated from those of S. vulgaris and previously published results based on nuclear markers further support our taxonomic hypothesis. We suggest Calabrian black squirrel as common name for this new taxon.

Keywords: Sciuridae; Sciurus meridionalis; taxonomy; new species; Italy

Figure 2 – Sciurus meridionalis, in summer coat, from Sila massif, Calabria, Italy.
Photograph by Antonio Mancuso. 

Family Sciuridae Fischer von Waldheim, 1817

Genus Sciurus Linnaeus, 1758

Sciurus meridionalis, Lucifero 1907 

Geographical distribution: The range of Sciurus meridionalis Lucifero, 1907 includes the three main mountain blocks of Calabria: the whole Pollino massif (including Lucanian side) at the border between Calabria and Lucania, the Sila massif and the Aspromonte massif, with three once disjunct populations.Only recently the Pollino and Sila populations have become connec-ted by colonization of the Catena Costiera, which was made possible by replanting of conifers (Rima et al., 2009). The species has not been reported from the Serre Massif (Fig. 3). 


Lucas A. Wauters, Giovanni Amori, Gaetano Aloise, Spartaco Gippoliti, Paolo Agnelli, Andrea Galimberti, Maurizio Casiraghi, Damiano Preatoni and Adriano Martinoli. 2017. New Endemic Mammal Species for Europe: Sciurus meridionalis (Rodentia, Sciuridae).  Hystrix [the Italian Journal of Mammalogy]. DOI:  10.4404/hystrix-28.1-12015

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