Treeshrews (order Scandentia) comprise 2 families of squirrel-sized terrestrial, arboreal, and scansorial mammals distributed throughout much of tropical South and Southeast Asia. The last comprehensive taxonomic revision of treeshrews was published in 1913, and a well-supported phylogeny clarifying relationships among all currently recognized extant species within the order has only recently been published. Within the family Tupaiidae, 2 widely distributed species, the northern treeshrew, Tupaia belangeri (Wagner, 1841), and the common treeshrew, T. glis (Diard, 1820), represent a particularly vexing taxonomic complex. These 2 species are currently distinguished primarily based on their respective distributions north and south of the Isthmus of Kra on the Malay Peninsula and on their different mammae counts. This problematic species complex includes 54 published synonyms, many of which represent putative island endemics. The widespread T. glis and T. belangeri collectively comprise a monophyletic assemblage representing the sister lineage to a clade composed of the golden-bellied treeshrew, T. chrysogaster Miller, 1903 (Mentawai Islands), and the long-footed treeshrew, T. longipes (Thomas, 1893) (Borneo). As part of a morphological investigation of the T. glis–T. belangeri complex, we studied the proportions of hand bones, which have previously been shown to be useful in discriminating species of soricids (true shrews). We measured 38 variables from digital X-ray images of 148 museum study skins representing several subspecies of T. glis, T. belangeri, T. chrysogaster, and T. longipes and analyzed these data using principal components and cluster analyses. Manus proportions among these 4 species readily distinguish them, particularly in the cases of T. chrysogaster and T. longipes. We then tested the distinctiveness of several of the populations comprising T. glis and T. longipes. T. longipes longipes and T. l. salatana Lyon, 1913, are distinguishable from each other, and populations of T. "glis" from Bangka Island and Sumatra are distinct from those on the Malay Peninsula, supporting the recognition of T. salatana, T. discolor Lyon, 1906, and T. ferruginea Raffles, 1821 as distinct species in Indonesia. These relatively small, potentially vulnerable treeshrew populations occur in the Sundaland biodiversity hotspot and will require additional study to determine their appropriate conservation status.
Additional publication details
Using hand proportions to test taxonomic boundaries within the Tupaia glis species complex (Scandentia, Tupaiidae)