First indications of a highland specialist among mouse lemurs (Microcebus spp.) and evidence for a new mouse lemur species from eastern Madagascar
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The factors that limit the distribution of the highly diverse lemur fauna of Madagascar are still debated. We visited an understudied region of eastern Madagascar, a lowland rainforest site (Sahafina, 29–230 m a.s.l.) close to the Mantadia National Park, in order to conduct a survey and collect further distributional data on mouse lemurs. We captured, measured, photographed, and sampled mouse lemurs from the Sahafina forest, performed standard phylogenetic methods based on three mitochondrial DNA genes, and conducted morphometric comparisons in order to clarify their phylogenetic position and taxonomic status. The mouse lemurs from the Sahafina forest could not be assigned to any of the known mouse lemur species and were highly divergent in all molecular analyses from all previously described species. Since they also differed morphometrically from their sister species and from their geographic neighbors, we propose species status and include a species description at the end. This study suggests that M. lehilahytsara may be the first highland specialist among all mouse lemurs. The distribution of the newly described mouse lemur is not fully known, but seems to be rather restricted and highly fragmented, which raises serious conservation concerns.
KeywordsEvolution Conservation Primates Taxonomy Phylogeny Morphometry
We thank the Malagasy authorities in the form of the committee CAFF/CORE and the Water and Forest Ministry for permission to conduct the survey work in the Sahafina forest. We thank Daniel Rakotondravony for his unflagging help in all institutional affairs. We further acknowledge the help of the local community and the guides of the Sahafina forest. We are endebted to BCM (Biodiversity Conservation Madagascar) and in particular to Aldus Andriamamonjy for funding the field work in Sahafina. U.R. thanks Hella Breitrueck for the technical support in the lab. The comments of two reviewers and the editor helped to improve the manuscript considerably. All field handling and sampling procedures adhered to the legal requirements of Madagascar and were approved by the Ministry of Water and Forests. We have complied with ethical standards in the treatment of primates laid down in the EC Guide for animal experiments, and with the national laws and research rules formulated by the Malagasy authorities.
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