2. FUTURE TRENDS
3. NO. OF SPECIES?
4. OTHER DEBATES
WANT MORE DETAIL? CHECK OUT KING & BURKE 1997
READ THE DEBATE ABOUT CAIMAN CLASSIFICATION
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HOW MANY SPECIES ARE THERE?
There's a lot of confusion over just how many species of living crocodilians there are. I've seen numbers ranging from 21 up to 27, although more commonly it is either 22 or 23 species. The reason for all this confusion is because several species have been renamed over time, yet not all of these names have been universally adopted even today. Let's review the evidence and clear this up.
According to the most widely-used taxonomic classification (King & Burke 1997), there are 23 living crocodilian species. There are two common sources of confusion for people (highlighted in red), however. The first is the Jacaré Caiman, known these days as Caiman yacare. In fact, Medem (who named it) originally suggested that this caiman should have its own species designation, but later workers attributed it as a subspecies of Caiman crocodilus despite considerable evidence that it should be a separate species. Many older croc books therefore give us Caiman crocodilus yacare, but in fact it is now recognised as a separate species by most workers and recent classifications. Its older usage is still seen occasionally, however.
The second source of confusion comes from the Philippine Crocodile. Although
the discoverer, Schmidt, recognised this to be a separate species to the New
Guinea Crocodile, some later workers suggested that both the Philippine
and the New Guinea Crocodile were subspecies of each other (i.e. Crocodylus
novaeguineae mindorensis, and C. novaeguineae novaeguineae respectively). Now,
the original designation has been reinstated and Crocodylus mindorensis is a
separate species again. Like the Jacaré Caiman, however, most older books
list the older status which is then replicated by newer books.