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Keywords:

  • biogeography;
  • ecological niche model;
  • lemur;
  • Madagascar;
  • parapatric speciation;
  • species distribution model

Abstract

Understanding ecological niche evolution over evolutionary timescales is crucial to elucidating the biogeographic history of organisms. Here, we used, for the first time, climate-based ecological niche models (ENMs) to test hypotheses about ecological divergence and speciation processes between sister species pairs of lemurs (genus Eulemur) in Madagascar. We produced ENMs for eight species, all of which had significant validation support. Among the four sister species pairs, we found nonequivalent niches between sisters, varying degrees of niche overlap in ecological and geographic space, and support for multiple divergence processes. Specifically, three sister-pair comparisons supported the null model that niches are no more divergent than the available background region. These findings are consistent with an allopatric speciation model, and for two sister pairs (E. collaris–E. cinereiceps and E. rufus–E. rufifrons), a riverine barrier has been previously proposed for driving allopatric speciation. However, for the fourth sister pair E. flavifrons–E. macaco, we found support for significant niche divergence, and consistent with their parapatric distribution on an ecotone and the lack of obvious geographic barriers, these findings most strongly support a parapatric model of speciation. These analyses thus suggest that various speciation processes have led to diversification among closely related Eulemur species.