Vocal Diversity and Taxonomy of Nomascus in Central Vietnam and Southern Laos
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Previous researchers suggested that gibbon song repertoire is genetically determined and song characteristics are useful for assessing systematic relationships. The southern white-cheeked crested gibbon is regarded as either a subspecies of Nomascus leucogenys or its own species (Nomascus siki). I studied vocal diversity among different wild populations of Nomascus in central Vietnam and southern Laos to assess their taxonomic relationships and to examine whether their vocal patterns correspond to forms previously described for Nomascus siki. I examined the songs of 7 Nomascus populations in Vietnam and Laos. I analyzed 192 song bouts from different gibbon groups including 173 phrases of 42 females and 192 phrases of 42 males. Linear discriminant analysis, classification trees, and multidimensional scaling revealed marked separation of groups in the northern and southern populations. Within the 2 geographic populations, there is little variability and the vocal characteristics exhibited no apparent cline. I conclude that the northern and southern geographic populations may represent 2 distinct taxa. I postulate that a taxonal boundary such as large rivers existing between southern Quang Binh province and northern Thua-Thien Hue province in Vietnam and northern Phou Xang He NBCA and southern Dong Phou Vieng NBCA in Laos has limited gene flow between the populations. Differing topographic features could also serve as a selective force for improved sound transmission in a highly territorial species, driving the divergence between the 2 populations.