The Iranian gazelle as a possible new species in genus Gazella

There is a type of gazelle (genus Gazella) in Iran which may deserve to be recognised as a species of its own. I suggest the scientific name Gazella shikarii and the subspecies names Gazella shikarii shikarii and Gazella shikarii karamii, and I suggest the common names Iranian gazelle (for the species), Kavir gazelle (for subspecies shikarii, which is restricted to the edges of the Kavir Desert), and Bushehr gazelle (for subspecies karamii, which is restricted to the semi-deserts near the Persian Gulf).

As at November 2020, there are only three photos of this suggested species in iNaturalist, one of a dead specimen of the Kavir gazelle and two of living adult males of the Bushehr gazelle. However, there are dozens of photos, some of them excellent, of the Kavir gazelle on the Web, which can be sought under 'jebeer', 'gebeer', 'kavir', 'turan' and 'naybandan'. I have been able to open the following: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bd/Gazella_bennettii_in_Iran_01.jpg and https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f8/A_group_of_Gazella_bennettii_in_Iran_02.jpg and https://www.zoochat.com/community/media/indian-gazelle-chinkara.172127/ and https://www.iranjasminco.com/en_package/304_Kavir-National-Park-Safari and https://media.tehrantimes.com/d/t/2020/06/15/4/3477262.jpg and https://mapio.net/pic/p-47809730/ and https://travelartin.com/iran-desert-animals/#lg=1&slide=0 and https://www.tappersia.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/98.jpg and http://www.ecocci.org/eco_chamber_news/item/6590-kavir-national-park-a-protected-zone-in-iran. There is a good photo 'jebeer gazelle' by Fallahzadeh Wildlife Photography in https://www.visitouriran.com/blog/the-narrative-of-conservationists-and-their-efforts-in-iran/. The website www.hadiansari.ir also contains several photos of 'gebeer' which I cannot open.

Current thinking among taxonomists has been to lump the Iranian gazelle into the Indian gazelle (Gazella bennettii). However, this is unsatisfactory for several reasons.

Firstly, the Iranian gazelle looks as similar to the dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas) of Africa as it does to the Indian gazelle. Secondly, Groves and Grubb (2011) found no intermediates with Gazella bennettii where the ranges abut in Eastern Iran. This is despite the fact that the two subspecies of the Iranian gazelle are separated from each other by the main mountain chain of Iran, while both being contiguous with the Indian gazelle (which is called 'eastern jebeer' in Iran).

The Kavir gazelle can be recognised by a combination of the following features. The horns of males bow outwards more than in the Indian gazelle, while the horns of females are remarkably long. The ears are proportionately larger than in the other gazelles of Iran. There is less banding of the flank than in any other gazelle. The pale ventral part of the torso is white, not smudged as in both the Indian gazelle and the goitred gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa) of Iran. The dark spot on the front of the face is hardly noticeable. And there is surprising uniformity of colouration, in contrast to the obvious individual variation found in most other types of gazelle.

While it is likely that the taxonomic status of gazelles will continue to be argued this way or that, I offer naturalists a refreshed search image. Recognising the distinctiveness of the Iranian gazelle may help it to be brought to the full light that such a graceful antelope deserves - beyond its current main interest as one of the few prey species remaining for the endangered cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) in Iran.

Posted by milewski milewski, November 27, 2020 21:25

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