Recently, two mitochondrial haplotypes, H4 and H8, of Manis sp. were found in two seizures in Hong Kong that do not correspond to Manis javanica, Manis pentadactyla or Manis crassicaudata of Asian pangolin species or any African pangolin species. It was proposed that both haplotypes derived from Manis culionensis, an unknown lineage of M. javanica, or a thus far unidentified Asian pangolin species (Manis sp.). To further investigate these three hypotheses, we used two mitochondrial genes of all eight known extant pangolin species and conducted phylogenetic tree reconstructions, divergence time estimation, and species delimitation analyses. All analyses consistently confirmed that these two haplotypes of Manis sp. constitute a distinct lineage, potentially representing a fifth Asian pangolin species, which originated around the Late Miocene to Early Pliocene (6.95 [4.64–9.85] million years ago). Our study provides genetic support for a potential fifth Asian pangolin species and helps to better understand species diversity of Asian pangolins, which is urgently needed for effective conservation work.
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Vol. 37 • No. 6