Petaurus leucogaster Mitchell, 1838

Parnaby, Harry E., Ingleby, Sandy & Divljan, Anja, 2017, Type Specimens of Non-fossil Mammals in the Australian Museum, Sydney, Records of the Australian Museum 69 (5), pp. 277-420 : 403

publication ID 10.3853/j.2201-4349.69.2017.1653

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Petaurus leucogaster Mitchell, 1838


Petaurus leucogaster Mitchell, 1838 nomen nudum

Three Exped. Central. Australia, vol. 1, p. xvii. (preface date 18 August 1838) .

Common name. The “White-bellied flying squirrel” of Mitchell.

Current name. An unallocated name, perhaps Petaurus norfolcensis ( Kerr, 1792) or possibly Petauroides volans ( Kerr, 1792) .

Type material. Bennett (1837) lists a male, female and young male under species nu. 14 “ Petaurus [blank] The White-bellied Flying Squirrel” collected by “ T. L. Mitchell ” from “Forests near the Murray”. The whereabouts of these specimens remains unknown, not found in the AM .

Type locality. “Banks of the Murray River” ( Mitchell, 1838), Forests near the Murray ( Bennett, 1837) = NSW or Victoria, Australia. Mitchell’s material could have been collected from more than one locality, given that there appear to have been syntypes.

Comments. Mitchell (1838) included a line entry for “ Petaurus Leucogaster. Mitch. (New Species). From the banks of the Murray” in his “Systematic List of Animals” that were “deposited in the Australian Museum” but without a description. The number of specimens obtained by Mitchell has previously been overlooked. McKay (1988b) states “probably holotype, AM, not found”. The three specimens listed by Bennett (1837) under his species nu. 14 are the only possum specimens listed as presented by Mitchell other than nu. 18, a possum from “Glenelg River” (Victoria), and are likely to be the original specimens of Mitchell’s “Whitebellied flying squirrel”. Bennett lists “Habitat, Forests near the Murray”, but he used “habitat” to refer to the collecting localities of specimens, as stated at the beginning of his catalogue.

Nineteenth and twentieth century authors (e.g., Iredale & Troughton, 1934) synonymized this taxon, often tentatively (e.g., Gray, 1841; Krefft, 1864a), with Petaurus taguanoides Desmarest, 1817b (= Petauroides volans ( Kerr, 1792) , the Greater Glider). This has been rejected on the basis that Mitchell did not pass through the distribution of Petauroides volans , with Petaurus norfolcensis given preference for the identity of Petaurus leucogaster ( McKay 1988b, but as incertae sedis; Jackson & Groves, 2015). However, we note that Mitchell crossed the Murray River downstream (west) from the current city ofAlbury on his third (1836) expedition. Albury is close to the current western distributional boundary of the Greater Glider (see distribution map of Burbidge & Woinarski, 2016) and it is conceivable that the species distribution was more extensive along the riparian corridor of the Murray River at the time of Mitchell’s visit, before extensive European modification from intensive clearing and grazing by stock.


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