Is the morphological disparity of lemur skulls (Primates) controlled by phylogeny and/or environmental constraints?



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    1. CNRS UMR 5561 ‘Biogéosciences’, Centre des Sciences de la Terre, 6 boulevard Gabriel, 21000 Dijon, France
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*Current address: CNRS UMR 8569 ‘Paléobiodiversité: histoire et dynamique’, Laboratoire EPHE ‘Evolution des primates’, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, 8 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris, France. E-mail:


The cranial morphology of Lemur catta and of the five species of the genus Eulemur is investigated here by landmark identification and Procrustes superimpositions. This geometrical morphometric method makes it possible to describe pure shape differences independent of size effects, and to quantify differences between specimens. The aim of this study is to determine whether the morphological disparity of lemur skulls is constrained by the environment and/or by the group's phylogenetic history. First, Procrustes residuals are analysed by principal component analysis and the scatter-plots interpreted against the geographical distributions of taxa to determine whether morphology is correlated with geography. Then, a morphological distance tree is computed and compared with various cladograms reported in the literature to test for any correlation between morphology and phylogeny. Morphological disparity is found to be closely correlated with geographical distribution but independent of phylogeny. This confirms that the morphological disparity of lemur skulls is associated with a high degree of homoplasy, probably as a result of ecological constraints. © 2002 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2002, 76, 577–590.