TitleAssessing the status of critically endangered Kondana soft-furred rat (Millardia kondana) using integrative taxonomy: combining evidence from morphological, molecular and environmental niche modeling
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsBajaru SB, Lajmi A, Manakadan R, Kulavmode AR, Ramakrishnan U
Date Published07/2020

Kondana soft-furred rat is a critically endangered (CR) species, known from a single locality - Sinhgad in the northern Western Ghats, India. However, the taxonomic status of this species is uncertain due to its close resemblance to the widely distributed soft-furred field rat Millardia meltada, which has serious implications on the conservation status of Millardia kondana. In this study, we assessed the current taxonomic status of M. kondana through an integrative approach combining morphological, molecular and environmental niche modeling analyses. We collected morphological data from the specimens around Sinhgad as well as preserved specimens in the museum. Both morphological and two-dimensional (2D) morphometrical analyses showed a significant difference between M. kondana and M. meltada. Molecular phylogeny based on cytochrome b gene revealed a sister relationship between M. kondana and M. meltada, and both species form distinct well-supported monophyletic clades. Niche modeling also predicted niche segregation between the two species: M. kondana preferred areas with a high elevation and precipitation seasonality while M. meltada favored regions with a low elevation and precipitation. We confirmed that M. kondana is taxonomically distinct from M. meltada, and based on our estimates of its occurrence and occupancy, M. kondana continues to be treated as CR until further detailed investigations.