The Mammal Diversity Database

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 Mammal Diversity Database (MDD), an updatable online database of mammal taxonomic and biodiversity information hosted by ASM at This database aims to provide the latest information on species-level and higher taxonomic changes, thereby promoting more rigorous study of mammalian biodiversity worldwide. The initial objective has been to aggregate, curate, and compile, new citations on species descriptions and taxonomic revisions into 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.

Our curation team

Nate Upham Connor Burgin Jane Widness Madeleine Becker Camilla Parker Schuyler Liphardt David Huckaby
Chair, Biodiversity Committee Student Research Assistant Student Research Assistant Student Research Assistant Student Research Assistant Student Web Developer Chair, Mammal Images Library Committee
Arizona State University University of New Mexico Yale University George Mason University Central New Mexico Community College University of New Mexico California State University, Long Beach

Oversight by the ASM Biodiversity Committee

E. Abreu, J. Alston, T. Androski, C. Burgin, C. Calderón-Acevedo, J. Colella, E. Craig, T. Demos, M. Dyck, J. Esselstyn, P.-H. Fabre, A. Feijó, A. Ferguson, M. Hawkins, D. Huckaby, B. Kohli, S. Maher, J. M. Martínez Cerón, V. Mathis, M. McDonough, S. Mech, A. Mychajliw, J. Nations, R. Norris, G. Oliver, O. Ornelas, B. Patterson, N. Pradhan, D. Reeder, M. E. Rodríguez-Posada, L. A. Ruedas, B. Tanis, N. Upham (Chair), J. Widness.

Citing the MDD

The current database (via Zenodo):

Mammal Diversity Database. (2020). Mammal Diversity Database (Version 1.2) [Data set]. Zenodo. DOI

A specific entry: Each entry has a citation string at the end. For example:

Mus musculus (ASM Mammal Diversity Database #1003372) fetched [current date]. Mammal Diversity Database. [current year].

Describing the MDD v1.0 taxonomy:

Burgin, C. J., Colella, J. P., Kahn, P. L., and Upham, N. S. 2018. How many species of mammals are there? Journal of Mammalogy 99:1—11.

Taxonomic overview

The Mammal Diversity Database (MDD), originally released in 2018, aims to provide a continuously updated listing of the world’s mammal species and higher taxa (all ranks above the species level). The primary goal of the MDD is to centralize information regarding the most recent and reliable systematic publications for each clade, offering up the taxonomic consequences of those works with a limited amount of subjective curation on behalf of the MDD Team. Foremost, the MDD aims to adhere to open science principles by providing streamlined access to the compiled data from our taxonomic curation efforts.

The MDD includes webpages for each species of currently recognized mammals, including taxonomic comments regarding changes since the Mammals Species of the World, 3rd Edition (MSW3; (Wilson and Reeder 2005)), and fields for type locality, higher-level taxonomy, common names, and updated country-level distributions. More fields of information are available in the download of the MDD (ZIP archive with CSV database & metadata). Some species currently also include the original name combination as spelled in the original taxonomic description of that species, original description citations, links to those publications, holotype voucher specimens, and nominal synonyms in a format similar to MSW3. This information is still a work in progress and is primarily under manual curation, so errors of omission or orthography may still be present. The MDD Team is also working on systematically curating synonyms from large publications such as the Mammals of South America and the Taxonomy of Australian Mammals, for which future updates will include compiled information. Subspecies have not yet been addressed here due to their inconsistent historical usages in mammalogy, although future efforts are likely to compile subspecies information for the purposes of species-level synonymy. The MDD is being regularly updated, so users are encouraged to contact the MDD team to report errors, new taxonomic arrangements, or queries regarding the taxonomy and interface via email: mammaldiversity [at] gmail [dot] com.

Subjective decisions.— In situations of conflicting taxonomic arrangement in the recent literature, the MDD team has endeavored to provide justifications and citations for the subjective decisions made, as well as a ‘flag’ designation in the CSV file. If the reader finds additional situations or omitted evidence, we kindly request feedback (please use the email noted above). The most substantial subjective decision the MDD has thus far encountered has been how to incorporate the recommendations of Groves and Grubb (2011)’s compendium Ungulate Taxonomy. This taxonomy of Perissodactyla and non-cetacean Artiodactyla was fully included in the initial 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.

Higher-level taxonomy.— Regarding higher-level taxonomy (i.e., all ranks above the species level), the MDD maintains an updated listing of all taxonomic ranks traditionally used below the order level as well as major superordinal clades. However, higher-level taxa do not yet have individual webpages, so this information is not yet fully transparent. For future updates, we intend to include individual taxonomic pages for each higher-level taxon in a similar format as the species-level pages. Ordinal names generally follow the arrangement presented in MSW3 with updates based on recent phylogenetic studies, resulting in Soricomorpha + Erinaceomorpha as Eulipotyphla, and Cetacea + Artiodactyla as a united Artiodactyla. The name Artiodactyla is preferred over the name Cetartiodactyla following the recommendation of Asher and Helgen (2010), which recalled the principles of Simpson (1945) to balance prevailing usage with priority in naming higher taxa. Asher and Helgen (2010) also recommended using Lipotyphla over Eulipotyphla, but confusion around the association of Lipotyphla with past definitions of the paraphyletic Insectivora assemblage (Woodman 2018) has prompted the MDD to favor Eulipotyphla as the first name used for the current definition of the order.

Recently extinct and domestic species.— The MDD includes all currently extant and wild species, as well as domestic forms and recently extinct species. To be included in the listing, an extinct species must have become extinct (or be expected to have survived) after the year 1500 CE. Extinction codings are informed by data compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and subfossil records dated from recent strata. For domesticated forms, we list them as separate species following the recommendations given from Gentry et al. (2004). The primary reason for recognizing domestic forms as distinct species from their wild counterparts is to avoid confusion regarding what forms are being discussed in both political and conservation situations. Recognizing domestic species also provides emphasis on the wild forms as an entity to consider and protect separately.

Content goals for improvement

Future activities of the MDD include the following:

Other in progress goals:


ASHER, R. J., AND K. M. HELGEN. 2010. Nomenclature and placental mammal phylogeny. BMC Evolutionary Biology 10:102.

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.

GENTRY, A., J. CLUTTON-BROCK, AND C. P. GROVES. 2004. The naming of wild animal species and their domestic derivatives. Journal of Archaeological Science 31:645–651.

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.

SIMPSON, G. G. 1945. The principles of classification and a classification of mammals. Bulletin of the AMNH ; v. 85.

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.

WOODMAN, N. 2018. American Recent Eulipotyphla: Nesophontids, Solenodons, Moles, and Shrews in the New World 650.