SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • integrative approach;
  • Microcebus;
  • communication;
  • taxonomy;
  • evolution

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.[3] 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[6]), or independent evolutionary lineages or, perhaps, only artifacts of taxonomic inflation?[7] What is a species? How can we identify primate species? How and why do species emerge during evolution?

image

Figure 1. A polymorphic species, the Neotropical strawberry frog (Oophaga pumilio). Photograph: Sabine Hagemann [Color figure can be viewed in the online issue, which is available at wileyonlinelibrary.com.]

Download figure to PowerPoint

image

Figure 2. Nocturnal primates living in dense forest environments, such as the tiny nocturnal Malagasy mouse lemurs, look superficially quite similar and are therefore often termed cryptic species. Photograph: Institute of Zoology, TiHo [Color figure can be viewed in the online issue, which is available at wileyonlinelibrary.com.]

Download figure to PowerPoint