Leaping Ahead, edited by Judith Masters, Marco Gamba, and Fabien Génin, is one of a series of books being produced by Springer in their Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects. It is also a follow up or continuation of a series of books following earlier symposia on prosimians: the 1972 conference at the University of London, the 1993 conference at Duke University, and the 1995 conference at the Chester Zoo in the U.K. This volume, was derived from a Prosimian International Congress that occurred at the Ithala Game Reserve, South Africa, in 2007.

Unlike many of the earlier volumes, this book is a series of relatively short articles and has a large number of authors. It is divided into seven sections, with 43 chapters. Since there are so many articles, I will only point out some of the more interesting findings.

Systematics and Evolution: Tattersall warns us of the possibility of “overtaxonomy.” Although many of the new species of prosimians are correctly designated, it is also likely that others are not. We must be very careful in adding new taxa before correct diagnoses are performed. Montagnon estimates from mitochondrial gene sequences that Daubentonia emerged substantially earlier (52–53 Mya) than other lemuriform families. Curtis and Donati provide evidence that many lemur species use cathemerality (day/night activity) as a means of dealing with seasonal and unpredictable environments in Madagascar.

General Ecology: Godfrey et al. find that Hadropithicus was a hard object feeder; Archaeolemur relied on C3 plants. These two extinct lemurs weaned their young late and had large brains for their body mass. Age of weaning was variable among the giant lemurs, at 2 years for some and 3 for others. Among the giant lemurs, the species with the slowest life histories and longest interbirth intervals are not the largest bodied ones but those with the largest brains. Hapke et al., using mitochondrial genetic data, report a recent expansion of the gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) into littoral forests of south-eastern Madagsascar. Bernede et al. and Nekaris et al. find that the Red Slender Loris (Loris tardigradus tardigradus) is losing habitat in Sri Lanka. As lianes and vines increase there is a decreasing number of these animals. Without a decrease in forest encroachment, the future of this species is in danger.

Behavioral Ecology: The first results of a pilot study of Allocebus trichotis by Biebouw revealed that this animal was highly insectivorous (about 70%), also eating some gums, fruit, and leaves. Randriatahina and Roeder report that blue-eyed black lemur (Eulemur flavigrons) are very much like other black lemurs, but questions still remain such as who migrates where and the final status of immigrating males and females.

Dietary Ecology: Vasey et al. found that fossil Archeolemur deliberatively entered caves. Furthermore, fecal pellets indicate that they used a large variety of resources, including fruit exocarps and seeds from a wooded grassland habitat; bats, rodents, frogs, and lizards; gastropod shells; and crustacean and arthropod exoskeletons. Couzzo and Sauther provide an excellent understanding of ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) dental characteristics. Streicher et al. found that slow lorises feed extensively on exudates and animal prey, and indicate that these items should be included in captive diets. Crowley and Godfrey found that it is essential to understand the whole diet of prosimians in order to interpret the carbon and nitrogen stable isotope variations. Nitrogen isotopes cannot be used to infer trophic levels or preferences for legumes. However, they did find that carbon can be used to assess preference for C3 plants.

Physiological ecology: Tecot tested fecal cortisol excretion profiles in Eulemur rubriventor in response to food fluctuations and compared these responses in groups in disturbed vs. undisturbed sites. He found lowest levels during the prebreeding season when fruit was abundant and highest during parturition and early lactation when fruit was scarce. Levels were also higher in the undisturbed sites, contrary to expectations. Dausmann found that Cheirogaleus medius chose trees for hibernacula which differed from trees chosen for diurnal rest only in relation to their size. Large, well-insulated trees allowed a better controlled pattern of energy expenditure for hibernating animals. Dammhahn and Kappeler found that Microcebus murinus females go through hibernation during the dry season, whereas M. berthae do not. In doing so, the former species is more able to enhance its own survival, increasing its ability to produce more than once in its lifetime.

Sensory ecology, communication and cognition (by far the longest section, with 12 chapters): Muchlinski found that primate infraorbital foramen (IOF) area correlates with diet: frugivores have larger ones then do folivores, and this relationship holds across primates. Gursky found that spectral tarsiers (Tarsius spectrum) would mob a civet model and a stick when covered with urine then when not. Newman et al. found that isolation calls of primate infants of strepsirhine primates show a diversity not found in haplirhine primates. They propose that this provides cues for mothers trying to locate lost or separated infants in nocturnal environments. Zimmermann observed that advertisement calls are the most useful diagnostic tools for species identification, as shown by studies of four cryptic, genetically defined mouse lemur species. Fichtel and Hilgartner found that, among Lepilemurs, calls did not elicit vocal responses among partners, but rather function to regulate space and interactions within pairs rather than to strengthen bonds. Since most vocalizations related to territorial defense, cohesiveness between partners may have been the initial driving force behind duets. Schilling found that Microcebus murinus could use infrared photography to manipulate objects when the animals were appropriately motivated.

Conservation of prosimians: The distribution of slender loris, especially that of L. l. lydekkerianus of south-east Karnataka, indicates a major threat to loris survival because of range reduction and fragmentation due to rapidly changing, human dominated landscape disturbance (Kumara et al.). Rambeloarivony and Jolly and Rasamimanana et al. claim that the lemur populations at Berenty are still maintaining their numbers with the introduced brown lemur still increasing. However, many factors, including climate change and an increasing human population, make the continued existence of this forest in danger. In reviewing the conservation history of Madagascar, Ratsimbazafy et al. state that improvements had been moving in a successful direction, with deforestation rates declining from 0.83% to 0.53% annually from 2000 to 2005. However, the 2009 political crises has had a substantial, negative impact on the island's conservation efforts. They claim that only with the empowerment of local communities will there be a chance of preserving Madagascar's endangered species.

As one can see, there are a number of excellent chapters in this book. However, the volume is much like a journal with a series of brief communications: each chapter is very short (around 6 to 8 pages). You might not want to buy the book but looking it over in the library might be useful.

  • Robert W. Sussman

  • Department of Anthropology

  • Washington University

  • St. Louis, Missouri