"A checklist of species is an invaluable tool for both researchers and the interested public." Thus began the first edition of this work, published by the Association of Systematics Collections (ASC) and Allen Press in 1982. That first edition was prepared by 189 professional mammalogists from 23 countries. It was coordinated by a special Checklist Committee of the American Society of Mammalogists. During the ensuing decade, it became the industry standard for mammalian taxonomy, providing an authoritative reference for nonspecialists and establishing an overall taxonomic hypothesis for testing by systematic mammalogists.
The American Society of Mammalogists anticipated the need for revision and established a Standing Checklist Committee under the chairmanship of Karl F. Koopman in June 1982, concurrent with the publication of the first edition. Duane A. Schlitter joined Koopman as co-chair in 1985, and they coordinated the committee's efforts until 1990. At that time, Don E. Wilson assumed the chairmanship of the committee, with a mandate to expand the committee and produce a second edition of the checklist. With support from the Office of Biodiversity Programs at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, and with additional funding from the Seidell Fund of the Smithsonian Institution, DeeAnn M. Reeder joined the project in August 1991. At this time, we shifted from the egalitarian approach of multiple authors per section and assigned authorship of the various taxonomic groups to specialists in the field. In 1993, the second edition of Mammal Species of the World was published, and the database from which it was derived became available to the public at: http://www.nmnh.si.edu/msw.
In 2002, the various authors, some of whom were new to the project, began in earnest to update the text for the third edition. This third edition is significantly enhanced by the inclusion of common names, recognition of subspecies, and inclusion of authorities for all synonyms. This additional information, coupled with the virtual explosion in taxonomic literature over the past decade, has resulted in the near doubling in size of the text between the second and third edition. Students of mammalian taxonomy have made significant advances in recent years, especially with the advent and refinement of additional molecular techniques. Beyond the additions due to revisions of known mammals that have occurred over the decades, a significant number of new mammalian species have been described, totaling 171 new species between the first and second edition of Mammal Species of the World (1982-1992) and 260 new species between the second and third edition (1993-2003).
Because of the inherent fluidity of mammalian taxonomy, with dramatic changes occurring in relatively short periods of time due to new data and interpretations and new species discoveries, we anticipate continued changes to the arrangement presented here. We welcome your suggestions, comments, and additions, and would particularly appreciate receiving copies of pertinent literature for preparation of future editions.
Don E. Wilson
National Museum of Natural History
DeeAnn M. Reeder