A morphometric assessment of geographical variation and subspecies in impala


C. Bastos-Silveira, Universidade de Lisboa, Museu Nacional de História Natural, Centro de Biologia Ambiental, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal.
Email: cbsilveira@fc.ul.pt


The single species of Aepyceros, Aepyceros melampus (impala), is native to central and southern Africa, from Uganda to South Africa. It inhabits open woodlands, sandy bush country and acacia savannah. This study tested the morphological and geographical variation among specimens of impala and their possible relation with described subspecies. Nineteen skull and horn measurements were taken. A multivariate analysis was used and size and shape were explored. Facial coat patterns were also coded. The results supported four out of five traditionally described subspecies: Aepyceros melampus petersi from Angola/Namibia, Aepyceros melampus melampus from South Africa, Aepyceros melampus suara from East Africa and Aepyceros melampus johnstoni from Zambia and Malawi. We consider Aepyceros melampus rendilis to be a synonym of suara. A revised synopsis is suggested, with comments on the geographical ranges of the subspecies. Skull dimensions also allowed us to estimate the geographical origin and subspecies of some individuals of unknown provenance. Coat patterns showed no clear relation with subspecies or geographic location, with the exception of A. m. petersi.