Justification for a taxonomic conservation update of the rodent genus Tamiasciurus: addressing marginalization and mis-prioritization of research efforts and conservation laissez-faire for a sustainability outlook

  • Moriz Steiner (University of Alaska Fairbanks) (Creator)
  • F. Huettmann (Contributor)



Taxonomy presents itself as the critical basis of any modern scientific decision-making approach in the living world, and therefore accurate classifications have to be sought. Due to ongoing species naming debates, here we would like to facilitate a discussion on the methods and validity used for taxonomic claims and their influence on conservation, ecology, and management for squirrels in the western world as a wider example. Following the established epigenetic approach, we examine the rodent genus Tamiasciurus. We include in our assessment all relevant species-interfering characteristics and present one new perspective, ecological niches. The ecological niche is essential for explaining the species’ behavior patterns and their discrepancies among the congeners, adding insights into phylogenesis. We add the usage of mapping software such as geographic information systems (ArcGIS, Open QGIS) for this genus, as well as best-available open access data and the statistical aid from R. Misclassifications in the taxonomy are known to lead to conservation failures on a continental and societal scale, in part caused by a lack of knowledge by the public and the miscommunication between scientists and the public. As one possible solution, here we suggest a reclassification for Mearns’s squirrel (Tamiasciurus mearnsi) and a description update for the entire Tamiasciurus genus to improve conservation success. Additional solutions are presented to simplify classification with reduced errors and confusion in the animal kingdom. A larger future effort of this style is sought to greatly decrease marginalization, to improve the current lack of research priority and “laissez-faire” attitudes on environmental issues for a better relationship between humans and the biotic world. In conclusion we present important topics and yet unaddressed problems, such as how the rodent’s marginalization influences the pandemic disease transmission to humans (e.g. Covid-19, rabies, and bubonic plague), appropriately assigned budgets for their conservation, and the data transparency in a continuously accelerating climate-changing world.
Date made available18 Jan 2021
PublisherWageningen University & Research


  • squirrel
  • Tamiasciurus
  • taxonomy
  • conservation
  • marginalization

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