The Mentawai and Batu Island groups off the west coast of Sumatra have a complicated geological and biogeographical history. The Batu Islands have shared a connection with the Sumatran ‘mainland’ during periods of lowered sea level, whereas the Mentawai Islands, despite being a similar distance from Sumatra, have remained isolated from Sumatra, and probably from the Batu Islands as well. These contrasting historical relationships to Sumatra have influenced the compositions of the respective mammalian faunas of these island groups. Treeshrews (Scandentia, Tupaiidae) from these islands have, at various times in their history, been recognized as geographically circumscribed populations of a broadly distributed Tupaia glis, subspecies, or distinct species. We used multivariate analyses of measurements from the skull and hands to compare the island populations from Siberut (Mentawai Islands) and Tanahbala (Batu Islands) with the geographically adjacent species from the southern Mentawai Islands (T. chrysogaster) and Sumatra (T. ferruginea). Results from both the skull and manus of the Siberut population show that it is most similar to T. chrysogaster, whereas the Tanahbala population is more similar to T. ferruginea, confirming predictions based on island history. These results are further corroborated by mammae counts. Based on these lines of evidence, we include the Siberut population in T. chrysogaster and the Tanahbala population in T. ferruginea. Our conclusions expand the known distributions of both the Mentawai and Sumatran species. The larger geographical range of the endangered T. chrysogaster has conservation implications for this Mentawai endemic, so populations and habitat should be re-evaluated on each of the islands it inhabits. However, until such a re-evaluation is conducted, we recommend that the IUCN Red List status of this species be changed from ‘Endangered’ to ‘Data Deficient’.
Additional publication details
Island history affects faunal composition: the treeshrews (Mammalia: Scandentia: Tupaiidae) from the Mentawai and Batu Islands, Indonesia