Biogeographic relationships of primates on South-East Asian islands



The number of primate species and genera on thirty-one south-east Asian islands west of the Wallace Line, including Sulawesi, is highly significantly related to surface area of the islands, as expected, but the z value (slope) of each relationship is low (0.21 for species). No association exists between number of taxa and distance to nearest mainland, or to nearest larger island. Excluding the non-Sunda Shelf islands only negligibly changes the relationships. A significant correlation exists between island size and median taxon's body mass, with taxa of 10 kg or more occurring on only the two largest islands. Hence, the primate community changes greatly with island size. The existence of several genera, but no congeners, on small islands, and a checkerboard distribution of the two nocturnal genera (Nycticebus and Tarsius), hints at interspecific competition as a cause of extinction. It is suggested that for comparative purposes, genera/area analyses might be more useful than species/area analyses, because genera are more taxonomically stable, perhaps more comparable across deeper taxa, and might be a better indication of degree of variability.