Population Ecology

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 229–240 | Cite as

Historical demography of a wild lemur population (Propithecus verreauxi) in southwest Madagascar

Original Article

Abstract

The human colonization of Madagascar is associated with the extinction of numerous lemur species. However, the degree to which humans have negatively influenced the historical population dynamics of extant lemur species is not well understood. This study employs genetic and demographic analyses to estimate demographic parameters relating to the historical population dynamics of a wild lemur population, Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi). The genetic analyses are used to determine whether this population experienced a historically recent (i.e., within the last 2000 years) population bottleneck, as well as to estimate the historical population growth rate and the timing of any changes in population size in the past. In addition, a retrospective demographic analysis is used to determine sources of variation and covariation in the sifaka life cycle and how variation in life-cycle transitions contributes to variation in population growth rate. The genetic analyses indicate that the sifaka population did not experience a recent population bottleneck; however, the historical population growth rate was negative, indicating that the ancestral population size was much larger than the current size. The timing of the ancestral population decline has a point estimate of 2300 years ago, but with large credible intervals: 3611–1736 years ago. This point estimate corresponds with the first evidence for human arrival to Madagascar. Climatic variation has also likely influenced past (and current) population dynamics due to stochastic annual rainfall patterns and climatic desiccation, the latter of which began in southwestern Madagascar around 4000 years ago. Variation in the survival of 2-year-old animals as well as large adult females makes the largest contribution to variation in population growth rate. In the absence of more explicit models pertaining to historical population dynamics, it is difficult to attribute the negative population growth rate of this species solely to a single factor (e.g., hunting, habitat destruction).

Keywords

Habitat disturbance Hunting Life-table response experiment Population growth rate Sifaka 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I am grateful to the government of Madagascar and the ANGAP authorities for permission to conduct this study. Various friends and colleagues contributed to data collection analyzed in this paper, and I am very grateful for the friendship and help. These individuals include Joel Ratsirarson, Alison Richard, Marion Schwartz, Robert Dewar, Diane Brockman, Kashka Kubzdela, Enafa, Elahavelo, Emady Rigobert, and Ellis Edidy. In addition to the aforementioned individuals, I am also very grateful for the friendship and support provided by Ibrahim Antho Youssouf Jacky, Jeannin Ranaivonasy, and Roshna Wunderlich in the field. I thank Hal Caswell and other members of the mathematical ecology group at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for their help in teaching me some of the analyses used in this paper; any errors are mine, however, not theirs. Moxie continues to teach me about issues in animal conservation. Many thanks to the editor at Population Ecology and especially to three anonymous reviewers who thoughtfully critiqued this manuscript and made the resulting publication much clearer and more responsible. This research was supported by National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biological Informatics (DBI 0305074) and a National Science Foundation Research Starter grant (DEB 0531988) and a National Science Foundation Full proposal (BCS 0960417). All necessary permits (CITES, IACUC, and Biohazard) were obtained and approved prior to conducting this research. Support for the Beza Mahafaly Monitoring Team is kindly provided by the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation.

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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Anthropology DepartmentJames Madison UniversityHarrisonburgUSA

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