Towards a uniform nomenclature for ground squirrels: the status of the Holarctic chipmunks.
Mammalia 2016; 80(3): 241–251.
The chipmunks are a Holarctic group of ground squirrels currently allocated to the genus Tamias within the tribe Marmotini (Rodentia: Sciuridae). Cranial, postcranial, and genital morphology, cytogenetics, and genetics each separate them into three distinctive and monophyletic lineages now treated as subgenera. These groups are found in eastern North America, western North America, and Asia, respectively. However, available genetic data (mainly from mitochondrial cytochrome b) demonstrate that the chipmunk lineages diverged early in the evolution of the Marmotini, well before various widely accepted genera of marmotine ground squirrels. Comparisons of genetic distances also indicate that the chipmunk lineages are as or more distinctive from one another as are most ground squirrel genera. Chipmunk fossils were present in the late Oligocene of North America and shortly afterwards in Asia, prior to the main radiation of Holarctic ground squirrels. Because they are coordinate in morphological, genetic, and chronologic terms with ground squirrel genera, the three chipmunk lineages should be recognized as three distinct genera, namely, Tamias Illiger, 1811, Eutamias Trouessart, 1880, and Neotamias A. H. Howell, 1929. Each is unambiguously diagnosable on the basis of cranial, post-cranial, and external morphology.