Elke Zimmerman, a Full Professor of Zoology at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover, Germany, has studied the role of communication for the evolution and adaptation of primates with special emphasis on galagos and lemurs. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Species concepts, diversity, and evolution in primates: Lessons to be learned from mouse lemurs
Article first published online: 20 FEB 2014
Copyright © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews
Volume 23, Issue 1, pages 11–14, January/February 2014
How to Cite
Zimmermann, E. and Radespiel, U. (2014), Species concepts, diversity, and evolution in primates: Lessons to be learned from mouse lemurs. Evol. Anthropol., 23: 11–14. doi: 10.1002/evan.21388
Ute Radespiel, Adjunct Professor at the same institution, has studied the behavior, ecology, genetics, biodiversity, and evolution of mouse lemurs in the field and under captive conditions.
- Issue published online: 20 FEB 2014
- Article first published online: 20 FEB 2014
- integrative approach;
Humans primarily rely on vision when categorizing the world. If you just look at the same-sized but strikingly differently colored Neotropical poison-dart frogs such as strawberry frogs (Fig. 1), you would be convinced that they must belong to different species. However, this is an excellent example of a polymorphic species, meaning that although these frogs look quite different, mating decisions are made based on their conspicuous and species-specific advertisements calls, which are not primarily linked to specific color pattern.[1, 2] The situation is quite different among nocturnal primates living in dense forest environments, such as the tiny nocturnal Malagasy mouse lemurs. In this case, even geographically isolated, well-accepted species look superficially quite similar and are therefore often termed cryptic species (Fig. 2). Some morphs are a bit larger than others or show minor phenotypic differences, but morph-specific differences are difficult to detect in living subjects. This phenomenon explains why, until the end of the last century, species diversity in mouse lemurs was assumed to be low, with only two morphologically distinct species. Over the last two decades, several international working groups, including our own, undertook a massive island-wide sampling effort, including DNA sequencing and phylogenetic analyses of mouse lemurs. These revealed a 10-fold higher species diversity, with 21 currently described species.[4, 5] Are these new species, mostly defined based on the phylogenetic species concept (sensu Cracraft), or independent evolutionary lineages or, perhaps, only artifacts of taxonomic inflation? What is a species? How can we identify primate species? How and why do species emerge during evolution?