Evolutionary Divergence in the Brown Lemur Species

The brown lemur species group (Eulemur fulvus, E. albocollaris, and E. collaris) is the most widespread of the day-active lemurs, occupying nearly all remaining natural habitats in Madagascar from the extreme north to transitional habitats bordering the arid south, as well as the island of Mayotte in the Comoros (Tattersall, 1982; Mittermeier et al., 1994). The present range in Madagascar is discontinuous, with populations found in coastal and adjacent inland habitats in the north, east, and west (resembling a ring species distribution; Figure 1). However, it is very likely that this vicariance is of recent, anthropogenic origin, as eastern and western populations were once contiguous, occupying the forest mosaics of the high plateau (Tattersall, 1993; Tattersall and Sussman, 1998).

In accordance with their wide distribution, brown lemurs demonstrate a high degree of ecological and behavioral flexibility. In this chapter, I will explore their variability and evolutionary divergence, including aspects of morphology, biogeog-raphy, ecology, and social systems. In addition, I will summarize the current conservation status of this diverse species complex. Tattersall and Sussman (1998) reviewed the evolution and ecology of brown lemur taxa in the north of Madagascar

Steig E. Johnson • Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada

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