Although critical for enabling in-depth evolutionary, ecological, or conservation-orientated studies, taxonomic knowledge is still scarce for many groups of organisms, including mammals of the order Carnivora. For some of these taxa, even basic aspects such as species limits and geographical distribution are still uncertain. This is the case for the Neotropical mustelid genus Galictis, considered one of the least studied carnivoran genera in the Americas. To address this issue, we performed a comprehensive assessment of morphological and molecular characters to test the number of species within Galictis, and to characterize their distinctiveness and evolutionary history. In addition, we reviewed and consolidated the available information on the taxonomy of this genus, so as to provide a historical framework upon which we could interpret our data. Our analyses demonstrated that two Galictis species can be clearly delimited and diagnosed using metric and nonmetric morphological characters as well as DNA sequences from mitochondrial and nuclear gene segments. On the basis of this clarified species-level delimitation, we reassessed the geographical range of each Galictis taxon, identifying possible areas of sympatry between them. These results provide a solid taxonomic framework for Galictis, enabling the development of additional studies focusing on this poorly known taxon.
© 2013 The Linnean Society of London, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2013, 167, 449–472.