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Keywords:

  • Ecomorphology;
  • geometric morphometrics;
  • lemur systematics;
  • phylogenetic comparative methods;
  • skull evolution

Adaptive radiations provide important insights into many aspects of evolution, including the relationship between ecology and morphological diversification as well as between ecology and speciation. Many such radiations include divergence along a dietary axis, although other ecological variables may also drive diversification, including differences in diel activity patterns. This study examines the role of two key ecological variables, diet and activity patterns, in shaping the radiation of a diverse clade of primates, the Malagasy lemurs. When phylogeny was ignored, activity pattern and several dietary variables predicted a significant proportion of cranial shape variation. However, when phylogeny was taken into account, only typical diet accounted for a significant proportion of shape variation. One possible explanation for this discrepancy is that this radiation was characterized by a relatively small number of dietary shifts (and possibly changes in body size) that occurred in conjunction with the divergence of major clades. This pattern may be difficult to detect with the phylogenetic comparative methods used here, but may characterize not just lemurs but other mammals.