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SUBFAMILY Dendromurinae

Author:G. M. Allen, 1939.
Citation:Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harv. Coll., 83: 349.

Dendromurines had been earlier allied with murines (Miller and Gidley, 1918; Simpson, 1945) but later included with "cricetids" (Lavocat, 1959, 1964; Lindsay, 1988) or treated as a separate family (Chaline et al., 1977). Carleton and Musser (1984) attempted a diagnosis of the subfamily as then understood and cautioned that more research was required to determine whether dendromurines represent a natural group or polyphyletic assemblage of specialized relicts. Monophyly of Dendromurinae was also questioned by Rosevear (1969). Recent analyses of morphology (Denys et al., 1995), spermatozoa (Breed, 1995d), and DNA sequences (Michaux et al., 2001b; E. Verheyen et al., 1996b) have exposed the polyphyletic structure of Dendromurinae and uniformly sustained a distant phylogenetic affinity between murines and dendromurines. These data collectively support removal of Deomys and Leimacomys to different subfamilies of Muridae: the former phylogenetically associated with Acomys, Lophuromys, and Uranomys (see account of Deomyinae); the latter as sole member of Leimacomyinae (see that account).

Divorced of Deomys and Leimacomys, the Dendromurinae contains medium to small-bodied muroids whose range of morphologies reflects varied evolutionary responses to different ecological constraints. Dendromus and Megadendromus, while active at ground level, are primarily adept climbers of tall grass and shrubs where they forage and construct nests and inhabit places where such vegetation is predominant (marshes, savannas, forest edges, alpine bamboo and heath zones). Malacothrix is terrestrial, granivorous, and gerbil-like in its morphology, habits, and habitat. Steatomys is terrestrial, dwelling primarily in savanna habitats and accumulating fat to remain inactive during unfavorable environmental conditions. Dendroprionomys and Prionomys are arboreal and insectivorous inhabitants of tropical lowland evergreen rainforest. Compared with the core genera (Dendromus, Megadendromus, Steatomys), tribal separation of Prionomys and Dendroprionomys is plausibly indicated by dental traits (Denys et al., 1995), and the highly specialized Malacothrix may also warrant tribal segregation.

Fossil antecedants of dendromurines are unresolved, although Tong and Jaeger (1993) suggested derivation from an early Miocene ancestor related to Notocricetodon of East Africa or to Potwarmus of Pakistan (apparently also the late Miocene in Libya; Savage, 1988). Extant dendromurines live only in Subsaharan Africa, where they are represented by Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene fossils of Dendromus, Steatomys, and unidentified "Dendromurinae" (Avery, 1977, 1995, 1998, 2000; de Graaff, 1961; Denys, 1987a, 1987b, 1994b; Geraads, 2001; Jaeger, 1979; Jaeger and Wesselman, 1976; Jaeger et al., 1985; Lavocat, 1965, 1978; Senut et al., 1992; Tong and Jaeger, 1993). During the late Miocene, however, the subfamilyís geographic range extended to Algeria (Ameur, 1984), S Spain (Aguilar et al., 1984), and United Arab Emirates (de Bruijn, 1999; de Bruijn and Whybrow, 1994). The earliest true dendromurines are two species of Ternania from the middle Miocene (14-13.9 million years ago) of Kenya (Tong and Jaeger, 1993). Winkler (1998) described Mabokomys from middle Miocene sediments (slightly older than 14.7 million years ago) of Kenya as the oldest African dendromurine, but to us its molar pattern is not dendromurine. We also agree with Tong and Jaeger (1993) in excluding those extinct genera (Dakkamys, Paradakkamys, Potwarmus) from the middle Miocene of NW Africa, Pakistan and Thailand that Lindsay (1988, 1994) defined as dendromurines (also Mein and Ginsburg, 1997; Winkler, 1998). Jaeger (1977a, b) considered Dakkamys to be a member of Myocricetodontinae, where it properly belongs according to Tong and Jaeger (1993) and Wessels (1996).

Alstonís (1876) Dendromyinae is the oldest family-group name and was accepted in checklists and classifications until the 1940s (Ellerman, 1941; Miller and Gidley, 1918; Thomas, 1896); it was abandoned for Dendromurinae (G. M. Allen, 1939), as since employed. Because Dendro is the stem from which the subfamily name was derived, either Dendromyinae or Dendromurinae is available (ICZN, 1999, Art. 11.7); however, Dendromys, the type genus of Alstonís Dendromyinae, is junior synonym of Dendromus, and when "a family-group name was replaced before 1961 because of the synonymy of the type genus, the substitute name is to be maintained if it is in prevailing usage" (ICZN, 1999, Art.40.2), a stipulation supporting continued use of Dendromurinae.

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GENUS Dendromus

SPECIES insignis

SPECIES kahuziensis

SPECIES leucostomus

SPECIES lovati

SPECIES melanotis

SPECIES mesomelas

SPECIES messorius

SPECIES mystacalis

SPECIES nyasae

SPECIES nyikae


SPECIES vernayi

GENUS Dendroprionomys

SPECIES rousseloti

GENUS Malacothrix

SPECIES typica

GENUS Megadendromus

SPECIES nikolausi

GENUS Prionomys

SPECIES batesi

GENUS Steatomys

SPECIES bocagei

SPECIES caurinus

SPECIES cuppedius

SPECIES jacksoni

SPECIES krebsii

SPECIES opimus

SPECIES parvus

SPECIES pratensis


    Dendromurinae G. M. Allen, 1939
    Dendromuridae Chaline, Mein, and F. Petter, 1977
    Dendromyinae Alston, 1876

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