Taxonomic Boundaries and Craniometric Variation in the Treeshrews (Scandentia, Tupaiidae) from the Palawan Faunal Region
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- Sargis, E.J., Campbell, K.K. & Olson, L.E. J Mammal Evol (2014) 21: 111. doi:10.1007/s10914-013-9229-2
The taxonomy of treeshrews (Order Scandentia) has long been complicated by ambiguous morphological species boundaries, and the treeshrews of the Palawan faunal region of the Philippines are no exception. Four named forms in the genus Tupaia Raffles, 1821, have been described from four island groups based on subtle qualitative morphological characters, and as many as three distinct species have been recognized. A recent molecular phylogenetic study of relationships among Tupaia species suggests that the two currently-recognized treeshrew species from the Palawan faunal region diverged very recently relative to other sister-species divergences within the genus and may not represent species-level taxonomic entities. Here we review the taxonomic and biogeographic histories of the Tupaia taxa from this region. We also collected craniodental data from 133 skulls of all four named forms, representing five island populations, and conducted univariate and multivariate analyses on these data. Our morphometric results are consistent with molecular results, further suggesting that there is insufficient evidence to recognize T. moellendorffi Matschie, 1898, as a separate species from T. palawanensis Thomas, 1894. Our analyses also revealed a craniodentally divergent population from the island of Balabac, which has never been considered a distinct subspecies (or species) from the population on Palawan. These results have conservation implications for the island populations in our analyses, but additional surveys and molecular evidence will be required to fully assess conservation priorities for the treeshrews of the Palawan faunal region.