African Wild Ass - Taxonomy


Different authors consider the African wild ass and the domesticated donkey one or two species; either view is technically legitimate, though the former is phylogenetically more accurate.

The species name for the African wild ass is sometimes given as asinus, from the domestic donkey, whose specific name is older and usually would have priority. But this usage is erroneous since the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature has conserved the name Equus africanus in Opinion 2027. This was done to prevent the confusing situation of the phylogenetic ancestor being taxonomically included in its descendant.

Thus, if one species is recognized, the correct scientific name of the donkey is E. africanus asinus.

The first published name for the African wild ass, Asinus africanus Fitzinger, 1858, is a nomen nudum. The name Equus taeniopus von Heuglin, 1861 is rejected as indeterminable, as it is based on an animal that cannot be identified and may have been a hybrid between a domestic donkey and a Somali wild ass; the type has not been preserved. The first available name thus becomes Asinus africanus von Heuglin & Fitzinger, 1866. A lectotype is designated: a skull of an adult female collected by von Heuglin near Atbarah River, Sudan, and present in the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart, MNS 32026. The two subspecies recognized are the Nubian wild ass Equus africanus africanus (von Heuglin & Fitzinger, 1866), and the Somali wild ass Equus africanus somaliensis (Noack, 1884).

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