International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 1123–1146 | Cite as

Geographical Variation in Duet Songs of Sulawesi Tarsiers: Evidence for New Cryptic Species in South and Southeast Sulawesi

  • James A. Burton
  • Alexandra Nietsch


Geographic populations of Sulawesi tarsiers differ conspicuously in the acoustic structure of the loud duet calls produced by mated pairs. There is evidence that the differences in call features relate to species differentiation. Duet calls can thus be used as a tool to identify cryptic species and for their monitoring in the field. We recorded duets from various geographically isolated populations of Tarsius tarsier in south and southeast Sulawesi to survey the species identity of the tarsiers in these regions. We compared their calls with the duet calls of the Manado tarsier (= Tarsius spectrum), Tarsius dianae, and the Togian Island tarsier. In addition, we recorded and analyzed the duet call of the tarsier from Peleng Island, Tarsius pelengensis. Qualitative characteristics of duet songs of both sexes, analysis of frequency and temporal parameters, and multivariate statistics show 4 distinct vocal forms that predict the existence of 4 new species. These are found on Selayar Island, on the south mainland (Bantimurung), on the southeast mainland (Puwato), and on the Islands of Kabaena and Buton. Our analysis of the call of the Peleng tarsier revealed striking similarities with the call of Tarsius dianae. Further morphological analyses are needed to support the proposed new species in south and southeast Sulawesi and to clarify the taxonomic affinity between the central Sulawesi tarsier species Tarsius pelengensis and T. dianae.


Biogeography Duet vocalization Sulawesi tarsiers Tarsier species Taxonomy 



In Indonesia, we appreciated the support of the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry (PHKA), the Indonesian Institute of Science and Museum of Zoology (LIPI), Institut Pertanian Bogor (IPB University), and field assistants in Sulawesi. We especially thank Haly Day, Steve Oliver, Bonny, Freddy Pangedia, Pak Simon, Marie-Luise Kopp, and Neny Babo for assistance in the field, and the latter 2 for their helpful discussions. We thank Operation Wallacea for their logistical support and volunteers for their help, in particular Paul Bland and Emma Seale. The work of J. A. Burton was funded by Operation Wallacea, Care for the Wild International, the Rufford Small Grant Awards, and The University of Edinburgh Development Trust. The equipment was funded by The Mammal Society, UK. The work of A. Nietsch was partly funded by German Research Foundation (DFG) and KFN, FU-Berlin.

We thank 2 anonymous referee and the editors for useful comments during preparation of the manuscript.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary StudiesThe University of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Earthwatch InstituteOxfordUK
  3. 3.Operation Wallacea, Wallace HouseLincolnshireUK
  4. 4.Department of Biology, Chemistry, and Pharmacy, tamen EntwicklungsbüroFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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