Past and Present Distributions of Lemurs in Madagascar

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Holocene cave, marsh, and stream deposits on the island of Madagascar have yielded thousands of “subfossil” specimens that document recent megafaunal extinctions. Excavations conducted during the past 15 years of archaeological and paleontological sites in northern, northwestern and southwestern Madagascar have unearthed, in addition to new specimens of extinct lemurs and other megafauna, an abundance of bones of still-extant lemur species. These specimens, as well as specimens of extant lemurs from subfossil sites excavated in the early and mid-1900’s, prove that living lemur species once had much broader geographic ranges than they have today, and they help to explain the currently disjunct distributions of a number of species. This paper examines the pattern of distribution of extant primate species at subfossil sites, and compares recent to modern primate communities.