Dataset Open Access

Mammal Diversity Database

Mammal Diversity Database

Project leader(s)
Upham, Nathan
Burgin, Connor; Widness, Jane; Liphardt, Schuyler; Parker, Camila; Becker, Madeleine; Rochon, Ingrid; Huckaby, David

Accurate taxonomy is central to the study of biological diversity, as it provides the needed evolutionary framework for taxon sampling and interpreting results. While the number of recognized species in the class Mammalia has increased through time, tabulation of those increases has relied on the sporadic release of revisionary compendia like the Mammal Species of the World (MSW) series. Here, we present the Mammal Diversity Database (MDD), a digital, publically accessible, and updateable list of all mammalian species, now available online: The MDD will continue to be updated as manuscripts describing new species and higher taxonomic changes are released. Starting from the baseline of the 3rd edition of MSW (MSW3), we performed a review of taxonomic changes published since 2004 and digitally linked species names to their original descriptions and subsequent revisionary articles in an interactive, hierarchical database. The MDD provides the mammalogical community with an updateable online database of taxonomic changes, joining digital efforts already established for amphibians (AmphibiaWeb, AMNH’s Amphibian Species of the World), birds (e.g., Avibase, IOC World Bird List, HBW Alive), non-avian reptiles (The Reptile Database), and fish (e.g., FishBase, Catalog of Fishes).

Development for this work is funded primarily by the American Society of Mammalogists (ASM), with initial logistical and planning support (2017-2019) provided by the NSF Vertlife Terrestrial grant. Logistical support is now provided by the Biodiversity Knowledge Integration Center at Arizona State University.

The ASM Biodiversity Committee compiles and maintains the MDD, curating regular releases that are downloadable in comma-delimited format. Downstream goals include expanded hosting of ecological, trait, and taxonomic data. Overall, this initiative aims to promote the ASM’s role as a leader in high quality research on mammalian biology.


Version 1.0 (1 Feb 2018; described in We found 6,495 species of currently recognized mammals (96 recently extinct, 6,399 extant), compared to 5,416 in MSW3 (75 extinct, 5,341 extant)—an increase of 1,079 species in about 13 years, including 11 species newly described as having gone extinct in the last 500 years. We tabulate 1,251 new species recognitions, at least 172 unions, and multiple major, higher-level changes, including an additional 88 genera (1,314 now, compared to 1,226 in MSW3) and 14 newly recognized families (167 compared to 153). Analyses of the description of new species through time and across biogeographic regions show a long-term global rate of ~25 species recognized per year, with the Indomalayan biogeographic region as the overall most species-dense for mammals globally (127.1 species/km2), followed by Australasia-Oceania (90.6) and the Neotropics (85.1).

Version 1.1 (29 Mar 2019). This is an incremental release that documents 6,526 total species, of which 100 are recently extinct, 17 are domestic extant, and 6,409 are wild extant.  Of those, 212 species are "flagged" for further review (mostly ungulates from Groves & Grubb, 2011).

Version 1.2 (24 Sep 2020). This is a major update, though still incremental toward a more definitive forthcoming release. This release documents 6,485 total species, of which 103 are recently extinct, 19 are domestic extant, and 6,466 are wild extant. Ten species are still "flagged" for further review. This taxonomy and associated data (type locality, authorities, common names) are improved by reference to the Handbook of the Mammals of the World series. Additionally, justifications and citations are now provided for any subjective decisions made, the most substantial of which has been the recommendations of Groves and Grubb (2011)’s compendium Ungulate Taxonomy. That taxonomy of Perissodactyla and non-cetacean Artiodactyla was fully included in the v1.0 release of the MDD (Burgin et al. 2018). However, since Groves and Grubb (2011) was based primarily on qualitative morphological diagnoses with small sample sizes, it has since become controversial in the mammalogical community (e.g., (Holbrook 2013; Gutiérrez and Garbino 2018)). Many specialists have subsequently reverted to the taxonomic arrangement presented by Peter Grubb in MSW3. In current versions of the MDD, we use MSW3 as a baseline for ungulate taxonomy, leaving out all changes made by Groves and Grubb (2011) with the exception of those supported by other published research.



BURGIN, C. J., J. P. COLELLA, P. L. KAHN, AND N. S. UPHAM. 2018. How many species of mammals are there? Journal of Mammalogy 99:1–14.

GROVES, C., AND P. GRUBB. 2011. Ungulate Taxonomy. JHU Press.

GUTIÉRREZ, E. E., AND G. S. T. GARBINO. 2018. Species delimitation based on diagnosis and monophyly, and its importance for advancing mammalian taxonomy. Zoological Research:97.

HOLBROOK, L. T. 2013. Taxonomy Interrupted. Journal of Mammalian Evolution 20:153–154.

WILSON, D. E., AND D. M. REEDER. 2005. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference, 3rd ed. 3rd edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.



MDD_v1.2_6485species.csv -- CSV version of the MDD v1.2 list of recognized species of mammals (extant, domestic, and recently extinct).

META_v1.2.csv -- CSV file documenting the meaning of each of the columns in the MDD file.

This is a post-dated upload of the MDD v.1.2 taxonomy published 24 Sep 2020 on the website.
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