, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 830-848
Date: 05 Mar 2011

Taxonomic Implications of a Field Study of Morphotypes of Hanuman Langurs (Semnopithecus entellus) in Peninsular India

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Abstract

The Hanuman langur is one of the most widely distributed and morphologically variable non-human primates in South Asia. Even though it has been extensively studied, the taxonomic status of this species remains unresolved due to incongruence between various classification schemes. This incongruence, we believe, is largely due to the use of plastic morphological characters such as coat color in classification. Additionally these classification schemes were largely based on reanalysis of the same set of museum specimens. To bring greater resolution in Hanuman langur taxonomy we undertook a field survey to study variation in external morphological characters among Hanuman langurs. The primary objective of this study is to ascertain the number of morphologically recognizable units (morphotypes) of Hanuman langur in peninsular India and to compare our field observations with published classification schemes. We typed five color-independent characters for multiple adults from various populations in South India. We used the presence-absence matrix of these characters to derive the pair-wise distance between individuals and used this to construct a neighbor-joining (NJ) tree. The resulting NJ tree retrieved six distinct clusters, which we assigned to different morphotypes. These morphotypes can be identified in the field by using a combination of five diagnostic characters. We determined the approximate distributions of these morphotypes by plotting the sampling locations of each morphotype on a map using GIS software. Our field observations are largely concordant with some of the earliest classification schemes, but are incongruent with recent classification schemes. Based on these results we recommend Hill (Ceylon Journal of Science, Colombo 21:277-305, 1939) and Pocock (Primates and carnivora (in part) (pp. 97–163). London: Taylor and Francis, 1939) classification schemes for future studies on Hanuman langurs.