Zaglossus bartoni diamondi, T. F. Flannery & C. P. Groves, 1998

T. F. Flannery & C. P. Groves, 1998, A revision of the genus Zaglossus (Monotremata, Tachyglossidae), with description of new species and subspecies, Mammalia 62 (3), pp. 367-396: 385-387

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Zaglossus bartoni diamondi

n. ssp.

Zaglossus bartoni diamondi   n. ssp.

(Appendix 1, Figs 8 - 9 View Fig. 8 View Fig. 9 )

Holotype: AM M7955, skin with skull inside. Wissel (Paniai) Lakes area. Coll D.F. McMichael 15 May 1957. Dr McMichael has informed T.F.F. (pers. comm.) that the specimen was captured in the high mountains to the east of the lake, and was alive when he first examined it.

Etymology: For Professor Jared Diamond of the University of California, who, through his writings and research, has contributed enormously to our understanding of the biology of Melanesia.

Diagnosis: The largest Zaglossus   , invariably possessing five claws on the forefeet. but variably four or five on the hindfeet. Significantly larger (at 0.05) in all cranial dimensions than Z. b. smeenki   , and in all but IOW, BIMAST and RH than Z. b. bartoni   , and all but IOW than Z. b. clunius   . The depression between the rostrum and the braincase, usual for other subspecies, is generally lacking in this subspecies. In this it resembles Z. bruijnii.  

Distribution: The mountains of central New Guinea, from the ranges on the western side of the Paniai Lakes, Irian Jaya in the west, to the Kratke Range in the eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea in the east (sample 4). In the Telefomin area it occurs as low as 1,300 metres elevation on the northern side of the central cordillera ( Flannery and Seri 1990), while near Mt Carstensz it has been recorded at 4,150 m ( Harrer 1964). It seems to be particularly common in alpine meadows in the Carstensz area.

Specimens seen; 15 adult and 3 juvenile skulls, 4 skins.

Description. The skull is large and the rostrum robust ( Fig. 8 View Fig. 8 ). The fur of the holotype is dense and extremely dark brown, almost black, on the body. A few spines are visible through the dense fur of the back. The fur lightens to a reddish brown on the extremities of the limbs. The spines are almost entirely white, although some have a minute dark tip. All limbs have five claws, except the left foot, which has four. The venter, which lacks spines, is densely furred, the fur being blackish at the tip and grey at the root. The skin of the paws, tail and beak is blackish brown, as are the claws.

Other individuals differ in colour. AMNH 190859, for example, is a rich mahogany colour, the fur grading to reddish-yellow with some whitish hairs on the limbs and face.

Discussion. Zaglossus bartoni diamondi   has the widest distribution of any Zaglossus   . Despite this, it has remained poorly-known and poorly represented in museum collections. It is the largest known living monotreme. A captive male from the Kubor Range, which was held at Taronga Zoo, reached a maximum weight of 16.5 kilograms. It had been held in captivity for 12 years when weighed.

Its distribution is almost identical to those of several other mammals of the upper montane forest, including Neophascogale lorentzii   and Pseudochirulus mayeri   .