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Keywords:

  • community ecology;
  • primate evolution;
  • biogeography;
  • community conservation

Abstract

An understanding of the fundamental causes of the structure of primate communities is important for studies of primate evolutionary history, primate behavioral ecology, and development of conservation strategies. Research into these structuring factors has benefited from new perspectives such as consideration of primate phylogenetic history, metacommunities, and interactions with predators and nonprimate competitors. This review presents the underlying factors of primate community structure within the biogeographic regions of Madagascar, the Neotropics, Africa, and Asia. One of the major differences among these locations likely resulted from the initial primate taxa that colonized each region (a single colonization event in the case of Madagascar and South America, and multiple radiations of higher-level taxa in Africa and Asia). As most primates live in forests, the differences among the forests in these locations, caused by various climatic influences, further influenced speciation and the development of primate communities. Within these habitats, species interactions with different groups of organisms were also instrumental in developing community dynamics. Through an investigation of these fundamental factors, we identify some of the most important effects on primate communities in each region. These findings suggest that low primate richness in Asia may be caused by either the abundance of dipterocarp trees or high levels of monsoon rains. High numbers of frugivores and a lack of folivores in neotropical communities may be associated with competiton with sloths that were already present at the time of initial radiation. Climatic patterns which affect forest structure and productivity in Madagascar may be responsible for high numbers of folivorous lemurs. The identification of these factors are important for the conservation of existing primate communities, and indicate directions for future studies. Yrbk Phys Anthropol 47:2–39, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.