Using natural history collections to investigate changes in pangolin (Pholidota: Manidae) geographic ranges through time
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AbstractPangolins, often considered the world’s most trafficked wild mammals, have continued to experience rapid declines across Asia and Africa. All eight species are classed as either Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Alongside habitat loss, they are threatened mainly by poaching and/or legal hunting to meet the growing consumer demand for their meat and keratinous scales. Species threat assessments heavily rely on changes in species distributions which are usually expensive and difficult to monitor, especially for rare and cryptic species like pangolins. Furthermore, recent assessments of the threats to pangolins focus on characterising their trade using seizure data which provide limited insights into the true extent of global pangolin declines. As the consequences of habitat modifications and poaching/hunting on species continues to become apparent, it is crucial that we frequently update our understanding of how species distributions change through time to allow effective identification of geographic regions that are in need of urgent conservation actions. Here we show how georeferencing pangolin specimens from natural history collections can reveal how their distributions are changing over time, by comparing overlap between specimen localities and current area of habitat maps derived from IUCN range maps. We found significant correlations in percentage area overlap between species, continent, IUCN Red List status and collection year, but not ecology (terrestrial or arboreal/semi-arboreal). Human population density (widely considered to be an indication of trafficking pressure) and changes in primary forest cover, were weakly correlated with percentage overlap. Our results do not suggest a single mechanism for differences among historical distributions and present-day ranges, but rather show that multiple explanatory factors must be considered when researching pangolin population declines as variations among species influence range fluctuations. We also demonstrate how natural history collections can provide temporal information on distributions and discuss the limitations of collecting and using historical data.
CitationBuckingham E, Curry J, Emogor C, Tomsett L, Cooper N. 2021. Using natural history collections to investigate changes in pangolin (Pholidota: Manidae) geographic ranges through time. PeerJ 9:e10843 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.10843
Item Description© 2021 Buckingham et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.