How many species of mammals are there?
Journal of Mammalogy 99 ( 1): 1–14, doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyx147
Accurate taxonomy is central to the study of biological diversity, as it provides the needed evolutionary framework for taxon sampling and interpreting results. While the number of recognized species in the class Mammalia has increased through time, tabulation of those increases has relied on the sporadic release of revisionary compendia like the Mammal Species of the World (MSW) series. Here, we present the Mammal Diversity Database (MDD), a digital, publically accessible, and updateable list of all mammalian species, now available online: https://mammaldiversity.org. The MDD will continue to be updated as manuscripts describing new species and higher taxonomic changes are released. Starting from the baseline of the 3rd edition of MSW (MSW3), we performed a review of taxonomic changes published since 2004 and digitally linked species names to their original descriptions and subsequent revisionary articles in an interactive, hierarchical database. We found 6,495 species of currently recognized mammals (96 recently extinct, 6,399 extant), compared to 5,416 in MSW3 (75 extinct, 5,341 extant)—an increase of 1,079 species in about 13 years, including 11 species newly described as having gone extinct in the last 500 years. We tabulate 1,251 new species recognitions, at least 172 unions, and multiple major, higher-level changes, including an additional 88 genera (1,314 now, compared to 1,226 in MSW3) and 14 newly recognized families (167 compared to 153). Analyses of the description of new species through time and across biogeographic regions show a long-term global rate of ~25 species recognized per year, with the Neotropics as the overall most species-dense biogeographic region for mammals, followed closely by the Afrotropics. The MDD provides the mammalogical community with an updateable online database of taxonomic changes, joining digital efforts already established for amphibians (AmphibiaWeb, AMNH’s Amphibian Species of the World), birds (e.g., Avibase, IOC World Bird List, HBW Alive), non-avian reptiles (The Reptile Database), and fish (e.g., FishBase, Catalog of Fishes).