Laurie R. Godfrey is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
The extinct sloth lemurs of Madagascar
Version of Record online: 24 NOV 2003
Copyright © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews
Volume 12, Issue 6, pages 252–263, 2003
How to Cite
Godfrey, L. R. and Jungers, W. L. (2003), The extinct sloth lemurs of Madagascar. Evol. Anthropol., 12: 252–263. doi: 10.1002/evan.10123
- Issue online: 24 NOV 2003
- Version of Record online: 24 NOV 2003
- NSF. Grant Numbers: BCS-0237338, BCS-0129185, SBR-0001429, SBR-963350
Paleontological expeditions to Madagascar over the past two decades have yielded large quantities of bones of extinct lemurs. These include abundant postcranial and cranial remains of new species belonging to a group of giant extinct lemurs that we have called sloth lemurs due to their remarkable postcranial convergence with arboreal sloths. New fossils have come from a variety of locations in Madagascar, including caves in the Northwest (Anjohibe) and the Ankarana Massif, located in the extreme north, as well as pits in the karstic plains near Toliara in southwestern Madagascar. The most spectacular of these is the extremely deep pit (>100 m) called Ankilitelo, the “place of the three kily trees.” These new materials provide insights into the adaptive diversity and evolution of sloth lemurs. New carpal and pedal bones, as well as vertebrae and other portions of the axial skeletons, allow better reconstruction of the positional behavior of these animals. New analytical tools have begun to unlock the secrets of life-history adaptations of the Palaeopropithecidae, making explicit exactly what they had in common with their relatives, the Indriidae. Paleoecological research has elucidated the contexts in which they lived and the likely causes of their disappearance.