DIVERSITY AND CONSERVATION OF ETHIOPIAN MAMMALS: WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED IN 30 YEARS?
For over thirty years, the Mammal Research Group of Joint Ethio-Russian Biological Expedition (JERBE) studied diversity and evolution of Ethiopian mammals. The goal of the present paper is to review the most interesting results of the study and to summarize the present-day knowledge of the highly endemic mammalian fauna of Ethiopia. The obtained data revealed that the species diversity and the level of endemism of the Ethiopian small mammals could be far higher than was suspected before. One order, one family, four genera and 10 species were detected for the first time. Species rank of seven rodent taxa previously held in taxonomic synonymy was confirmed, all these newly recognized species were re-described. Eleven new endemic species were described de novo. In addition, 20 species of small mammals, belonging to 11 genera, were identified as new to science and await formal description. Totally, according to our obviously incomplete list, the Ethiopian mammal fauna consists of 311 species, and 55 of them are at present considered to be endemic to the country. The level of mammalian endemism in Ethiopia is much higher than in other African countries. Many of the endemic small mammals are potentially threatened because of their extremely limited distribution ranges and habitat destruction through agricultural expansion. In view of the fast habitat destruction in the country, taxonomic and evolutionary studies on Ethiopian small mammals are especially important and urgent. There is a high risk that some unknown endemic species will become extinct before they can be described and studied.
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