Mammals of Belize: A Checklist
Timothy J. McCarthy
Mammals of Belize: A Checklist was written by Timothy J. McCarthy, illustrated by Eustorgio Méndez, edited by Lydia Waight and Judy Lumb, and published for the Belize Audubon Society by Producciones de la Hamaca, Caye Caulker, BELIZE - 29 pages (1993)
For more information and to obtain a copy of Mammals of Belize: A Checklist, contact the Belize Audubon Society
The defined borders of Belize resulted from various political and historical events. The mammals found within the country cannot be confined so concisely, where the faunal composition is shared with eastern and northern Guatemala, Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, and beyond.
Our Caribbean lowland fauna also reflects geological events that established a Central American corridor between two continents. While some selective interchange of fauna between North and South America may have taken place over water, a continental connection was completed when the Isthmus of Panama rose above sea level about three million years ago. The mammal interchange that followed resulted in a variety of ancestral opossums, armadillos, anteaters, sloths, bats, monkeys, agouti, gibnut, and porcupine travelling from South America into Middle America, while dogs, cats, polecats, tapir, peccaries, deer, squirrels, rats, and mice entered South America from North America.
Mammal faunas of Middle America have continued to evolve with a myriad of changing pressures (e.g., species introduction, food competition, predation, climate, physical environment) that drive the dynamics of extinction, speciation, and faunal change. Paleontologists study fossil remains in order to reconstruct biological and geological events that shaped the past and present-day Central American Isthmus, while mammalogists study the composition and the zoogeographic significance of the recent mammal fauna such as that in Belize.
Our fauna of 129 terrestrial mammals in Belize is transitional between those which are representative of the Yucatán peninsula and the Central American lowland corridor. Certain species represent endemics (found only in a particular region) from the Yucatán Peninsular region, such as Cryptotis mayensis, Sciurus yucatanensis, Heteromys gaumeri, and Otonyctomys hatti. Others represent Middle American endemics, e.g., Balantiopteryx io, Bauerus sp., Eumops underwoodi, Alouatta pigra, Bassariscus sumichrasti, Sciurus deppei, Nyctomys sp., and Ototylomys phyllotis. Many of the remaining mammals are of South American origin. The ranges of a number of bat species reach their northern limits in northern Central America and, likewise, the same for the southern limits of certain North American affiliates. Some rodents (Mus, Rattus) were introduced originally by Europeans. Seven cetaceans are known to be associated with Belizean marine waters. Manatee inhabit both fresh and saltwater environments.
This checklist is updated from a previous version (McCarthy, 1993). The name Marmosa robinsoni is included tentatively, although we have daya suggesting that the few specimens reflect older, consequently larger, M. mexicana. We await further data to include Rhogressa aeneus as a valid species. Tromm (1992) provided the inclusion of the short-fin pilot and sperm whales from Belize’s coastal waters. Unpublished data (Ruiz-Piña, 1994) recognize the squirrrel, Sciurus yucatanensis, ss two species, which would change the name to S. baliolus in Belize. We follow Handley and Pine (1992) for the use of Coendou over Sphiggurus. Subspecies are not listed because our certainty of many mammal populations awaits revisional studies. A total of 136 species of land and aquatic species has been documented.