The evolution of primate communities and societies in Madagascar

Authors

  • Peter M. Kappeler,

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    • Peter Kappeler and Jörg Ganzhorn are at the behavioral ecology group of the German Primate Center. Peter Kappeler's research interests focus on social evolution, particularly the interactions among life history, behavior, and morphology in prosimian primates. His current field work includes studies of the social systems of nocturnal lemurs in western Madagascar. Jörg Ganzhorn is interested in community ecology and the consequences of anthropogenic habitat modifications with regard to species composition and population genetics. They edited Lemur Social Systems and Their Ecological Basis, which is based on a symposium organized at the 1992 Congress of the International Primatological Society.

  • Jörg U. Ganzhorn

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Peter Kappeler and Jörg Ganzhorn are at the behavioral ecology group of the German Primate Center. Peter Kappeler's research interests focus on social evolution, particularly the interactions among life history, behavior, and morphology in prosimian primates. His current field work includes studies of the social systems of nocturnal lemurs in western Madagascar. Jörg Ganzhorn is interested in community ecology and the consequences of anthropogenic habitat modifications with regard to species composition and population genetics. They edited Lemur Social Systems and Their Ecological Basis, which is based on a symposium organized at the 1992 Congress of the International Primatological Society.


Abstract

During their 120 to 165 million years of isolation, the flora and fauna of Madagascar evolved, to a large extent, independently of the African mainland.1 In contrast to other oceanic islands, Madagascar is large enough to house the major components of tropical ecosystems, allowing tests of evolutionary hypotheses on the level of complete communities. Taking lemurs, the primates of Madagascar, as an example, evolutionary hypotheses correctly predict the organization of their community structure with respect to ecological correlates. Lemur social systems and their morphological correlates, on the other hand, deviate in some respects from those of other primates. Apparently, lemur social systems are influenced by several selection pressures that are weak or rare in other primates. These include variable activity patterns and avoidance of infanticide. The interspecific variation in lemur social systems therefore offers a unique opportunity for a comprehensive study of the determinants of primate social systems.

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