Neal Woodman, Ph.D.
Neal Woodman is a U.S. Geological Survey Research Zoologist and Curator of Mammals stationed with the Biological Survey Unit in the U.S. National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. His research focuses on morphology, diversity, taxonomy, and evolutionary relationships of mammals, with a particular emphasis on the Soricidae (shrews) and Tupaiidae (tree shrews), although his portfolio also includes work with rodents, bats, proboscideans (elephants and their relatives), and North American, Neotropical, and Asian faunas.
Science and Products
Our science portfolio includes the study and management of mammal populations, which can require the use of methods and analysis that incorporate the difficulty in detecting them – picture how hard it is to count and identify bats at dusk or estimate the number of mountain lions in an area.
Scientists and staff of the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center stationed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) do research on the systematics and conservation of vertebrate species and curate and manage the North American collections of Amphibian, Reptile, Bird, and Mammal specimens and associated records.
The Challenge: Ancient Egyptians mummified animals for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was as votive offerings to certain deities. Among the six species of shrews that have been identified as mummies, one is now extinct, one is no longer occurs in Egypt, and the remaining four have more restricted distributions in the country. One of the latter species also exhibits significantly...
The Challenge: The postcranial skeletons of mammals exhibit tremendous variation in form that partly relates to phylogeny (who a particular species is related to) and partly to locomotory function (how that species moves through its environment). Understanding the contributions of these two factors is important because phylogenetic characters assist in working out evolutionary relationships,...
The Challenge: Taxonomic nomenclature relies, in part, upon an accurate taxonomic history in order to establish the correct name for a taxon. Constantine S. Rafinesque (1783–1840), was a knowledgeable North American natural historian who was is responsible for describing and naming such iconic American mammals as the mule deer [Odocoileus hemionus (Rafinesque, 1817)] and the white-footed mouse...
The Challenge: It has been generally considered that a severe injury to a wild mammal that seemingly limits its ability to forage for food or escape predators will almost certainly lead to that individual’s demise. Inspection of skeletons of wild caught small mammals, however, has revealed a surprising number of individuals with healed fractures of the skeletal bones―including the primary...
The Challenge: Treeshrews (order Scandentia) are small-bodied mammals endemic to South and Southeast Asia. Since it was first described in 1820, the Common Treeshrew (Tupaia glis) has had a complex taxonomic history that has led to widely variable estimates of diversity, misidentification of populations, and general confusion regarding it and closely related species. One result is that T. glis...
The Challenge: Despite more than a century and a half of study, accurate understanding of the diversity North American mammalian species and the distribution of those species remains unrefined. Yet this understanding is essential for determining the conservation status of species, for mapping out potential disease reservoirs, and for understanding the response of species to habitat...
Rediscovery of the type series of the Acadian Masked Shrew, Sorex acadicus Gilpin, 1865 (Mammalia: Soricidae), with the designation of a neotype and a reevaluation of its taxonomic status
The name Sorex acadicus Gilpin, 1865 is currently recognized as the valid name for the Nova Scotian subspecies of the masked shrew, S. cinereus Kerr, 1792 (Mammalia: Soricidae), but a holotype for the taxon was never designated, and the location of the type series has been a mystery. The authority for this species,...Woodman, Neal
Skeletal injuries in small mammals: a multispecies assessment of prevalence and location
Wild mammals are known to survive injuries that result in skeletal abnormalities. Quantifying and comparing skeletal injuries among species can provide insight into the factors that cause skeletal injuries and enable survival following an injury. We documented the prevalence and location of structural bone abnormalities in a community of 7 small...Stephens, Ryan B.; Burke, Christopher B.; Woodman, Neal; Poland, Lily B.; Rowe, Rebecca J.
Molecular systematics and biodiversity of the Cryptotis mexicanus group (Eulipotyphla: Soricidae): two new species from Honduras supported
Small-eared shrews of the genus Cryptotis (Mammalia: Eulipotyphla: Soricidae) are widespread in the northern Neotropics. Systematic studies of these shrews over the past two decades have revealed previously undocumented morphological and species diversity, resulting in a quadrupling of the number of recognized species. Unfortunately, a...Baird, Amy B.; McCarthy, Timothy J.; Trujillo, Robert G.; Kang, Yuan Yuan; Esmaeiliyan, Mehdi; Valdez, Joselyn; Woodman, Neal; Bickham, John W.
Rule reversal: Ecogeographical patterns of body size variation in the common treeshrew (Mammalia, Scandentia)
There are a number of ecogeographical “rules” that describe patterns of geographical variation among organisms. The island rule predicts that populations of larger mammals on islands evolve smaller mean body size than their mainland counterparts, whereas smaller‐bodied mammals evolve larger size. Bergmann's rule predicts that populations of a...Sargis, Eric J.; Millien, Virginie; Woodman, Neal; Olson, Link E.
Rafinesque's Sicilian whale, Balena gastrytis
In 1815, the naturalist Constantine S. Rafinesque described a new species of cetacean, Balena gastrytis, from Sicily, based on a whale that stranded on Carini beach near Palermo. In comparing the characteristics of his new whale with known species, Rafinesque also took the opportunity to name a new genus, Cetoptera, to replace Balaenoptera...Woodman, Neal; Mead, James G.
A new species of small-eared shrew in the Cryptotis thomasi species group from Costa Rica (Mammalia: Eulipotyphla: Soricidae)
We describe a new species of small-eared shrew, genus Cryptotis Pomel, 1848 (Eulipotyphla: Soricidae), from near the community of Monteverde in the Tilarán highlands of northwestern Costa Rica. The new species is immediately distinguished from all other Costa Rican shrews its large size and long tail. Morphologically, it belongs to the Cryptotis...Woodman, Neal; Timm, Robert M.
Identification and distribution of the Olympic Shrew (Eulipotyphla: Soricidae), Sorex rohweri Rausch et al., 2007 in Oregon and Washington, based on USNM specimens
Review of specimens of long-tailed shrews (Mammalia, Soricidae, Sorex) from the northwestern United States in the National Museum of Natural History (USNM), Washington, DC, has revealed the presence of the Olympic Shrew, Sorex rohweri Rausch et al., 2007, in the Coastal Range west of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. This determination nearly...Woodman, Neal; Fisher, Robert D.
Pranked by Audubon: Constantine S. Rafinesque's description of John James Audubon's imaginary Kentucky mammals
The North American naturalist Constantine S. Rafinesque spent much of the year 1818 engaged in a solo journey down the Ohio River Valley to explore parts of what was then the western United States. Along the way, he visited a number of fellow naturalists, and he spent more than a week at the Henderson, Kentucky, home of artist and ornithologist...Woodman, Neal
A new species of Cryptotis (Mammalia, Eulipotyphla, Soricidae) from the Sierra de Perijá, Venezuelan-Colombian Andes
The Sierra de Perijá is the northern extension of the Cordillera Oriental of the Andes and includes part of the border between Colombia and Venezuela. The population of small-eared shrews (Mammalia, Eulipotyphla, Soricidae, Cryptotis) inhabiting the Sierra de Perijá previously was known from only a single skull from an individual...Quiroga-Carmona, Marcial; Woodman, Neal
Functional skeletal morphology and its implications for locomotory behavior among three genera of myosoricine shrews (Mammalia: Eulipotyphla: Soricidae)
Myosoricinae is a small clade of shrews (Mammalia, Eulipotyphla, Soricidae) that is currently restricted to the African continent. Individual species have limited distributions that are often associated with higher elevations. Although the majority of species in the subfamily are considered ambulatory in their locomotory behavior, species of the...Woodman, Neal; Stabile, Frank A.
Who invented the mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus)? On the authorship of the fraudulent 1812 journal of Charles Le Raye
The captivity journal of Charles Le Raye was first published in 1812 as a chapter in A topographical description of the state of Ohio, Indiana Territory, and Louisiana, a volume authored anonymously by a late officer in the U. S. Army. Le Raye was purported to be a French Canadian fur trader who, as a captive of the Sioux, had travelled across...Woodman, Neal
Variation in the myosoricine hand skeleton and its implications for locomotory behavior (Eulipotyphla: Soricidae)
Substrate use and locomotory behavior of mammals are typically reflected in external characteristics of the forefeet, such as the relative proportions of the digits and claws. Although skeletal anatomy of the forefeet can be more informative than external characters, skeletons remain rare in systematic collections. This is particularly true for...Woodman, Neal; Stabile, Frank A.
“Think of a lion shrunk to the size of a mouse that needs to eat every 20 minutes or so.” That is a shrew, says Neal Woodman, a U.S. Geological Survey mammalogist who is curator of mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “Shrews are predators with very high metabolisms, hence their reputation for fierceness.”