A morphometric and genetic framework for the genus Gazella
Gazella is one of the most species-rich genera within horned ruminants. Despite overall similarity in body size and morphology, gazelles show variability in coloration and horn morphology. Unfortunately, however, species differentiation based on these characters, or on discrete skull characters, is very difficult due to high intraspecific variability. Furthermore, most species have fragmented and allopatric distributions, so that species boundaries were hard to define in the past. Mitochondrial DNA sequences have proven useful for investigating gazelle taxonomy in recent years, but especially for old museum material, i.e. type specimens, destructive sampling is often impossible. We provide a comprehensive morphometric framework for the genus Gazella based on linear skull measurements reconciled with results from molecular phylogenetic analysis based on the largest dataset available so far. In particular for males, the skull morphology shows interspecific differences concurrent with DNA data and provides a reliable tool for species identification. Based on morphometric data we synonymize G. karamii with G. marica, and confirm the identification of the G. arabica and G. a. rueppelli type skulls from analyses of mitochondrial DNA sequences.