Biogeography of Dwarf Lemurs: Genetic Evidence for Unexpected Patterns in Southeastern Madagascar
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- Hapke, A., Fietz, J., Nash, S.D. et al. Int J Primatol (2005) 26: 873. doi:10.1007/s10764-005-5327-0
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Seven species of dwarf lemurs (Cheirogaleus spp.) are currently recognized after a recent revision of the genus. During a field study in southeastern Madagascar, we observed 3 distinct morphotypes of Cheirogaleus resembling Cheirogaleus medius, C. major and C. crossleyi. In particular, for Cheirogaleus crossleyi southeastern Madagascar was far away from the known distribution range of the species when referring to the recent revision of the genus. In order to clarify the taxonomic status of the 3 morphotypes, we compared field samples from southeastern Madagascar to museum specimens from several locations in Madagascar and to field samples from Kirindy/CFPF, western Madagascar by genetic analyses using the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene. Genetic data yield strong support for 2 of the 3 morphotypes to represent Cheirogaleus medius and C. major. The third morphotype is genetically closely related to Cheirogaleus crossleyi, albeit more distantly than the other 2 morphotypes to the respective reference samples. The genetic distance is related to a considerable geographic distance between the location of our field study and the origin of the respective reference specimen, because Cheirogaleus crossleyi had been reported only from northern Madagascar. Our field observations indicate an isolated population in southeastern Madagascar. We propose to identify them as Cheirogaleus crossleyi and discuss the population genetic and biogeographic considerations supporting this conclusion.