Microcebus is a highly diverse genus with nine described species thus far and more to come (see below). The growing evidence for its taxonomic diversity is the result of intensified fieldwork during the last few decades coupled with the application of modern molecular phylogenetic approaches to this cryptic species group. Although early studies reported different morphotypes of mouse lemurs living even partly in sympatry (e.g., Petter, 1962; Martin, 1972), species status was assigned to them only later following the publications of Petter et al. (1977) and Tattersall (1982). The most influential single field study on the ecology and behavior of mouse lemurs is undoubtedly the ground-laying work of Martin (1972). Since Martin's work, many subsequent field studies were conducted by other researchers on different Microcebus taxa and it is now becoming progressively clear that mouse lemurs exhibit a large array of different ecological adaptations to a variety of different habitat types and climatic regimes. Ecological diversity may be expressed interspecifically but can also be detected between different populations
Ute Radespiel • Institute of Zoology, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, 30559 Hannover, Germany of the same species. This chapter aims to review the current knowledge on ecological adaptations and their flexibility both inter- and intraspecifically. By doing this, I also want to explore what we can deduce on the biology and ecology of the "ancestral mouse lemur." Any trait that exists in most or all mouse lemur species (assumed starting point of radiation is about 10 million years ago [Yoder and Yang, 2004]) can be assumed to have already been present in their common ancestor. If, on the other hand, traits differ significantly between species, specific ecological adaptations to divergent environments can be assumed. Finally, high intraspecific variation may indicate a high adaptive potential of certain species that may, for example, allow us to explain differential distribution patterns or different susceptibility to human disturbances.
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