Molecular identification of Mazama species (Cervidae: Artiodactyla) from natural history collections
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Natural history museum collections constitute an invaluable patrimony of biological diversity for analysing the taxa distribution and evolution. However, it is very common to discover taxonomic misidentification in museum collections based on incorrect data. The aim of this research was to identify brocket deer species (Mazama genus) using molecular markers. We collected 199 samples, performed DNA extraction and species identification using a specific mito-chondrial marker based on a fragment of cytochrome b (Cytb) for Neotropical deer. We achieved the amplification and sequencing of 77 specimens and verified that 26% of the skulls were wrongly identified. Moreover, in the museum collections 57% of the specimens were only identified as Mazama sp, and we were able to identify them by molecular methods to the species level. Our findings clearly demonstrate the importance of integrating molecular analyses to identify Mazama species, since using only external morphology can result in a high probability of errors. We recommend the selection of non-convergent morphological characters, which together with the use of DNA collected from museum specimens should contribute to more accurate taxonomic identifications.