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Am J Primatol. 1998;45(3):225-43.

Cranial allometry and geographic variation in slow lorises (Nycticebus)

Author information

  • Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, IL 60611-3008, USA. m-ravosa@nwu.edu

Erratum in

  • Am J Primatol 1999;47(1):89.


A series of 20 craniodental measurements was obtained for two sister taxa: Nycticebus coucang (common slow loris) and N. pygmaeus (pygmy slow loris). Multivariate analysis of variance was performed with adult data to describe patterns of subspecific and specific variation in this genus. The geometric mean of adult cranial dimensions was compared to field data on latitudinal coordinates for available specimens to investigate if size variation in Nycticebus is clinal in nature. Ontogenetic series for larger-bodied N. coucang and smaller-bodied N. pygmaeus were compared to test the hypothesis that species and subspecific variation in skull form results from the differential extension of common patterns of relative growth. A MANOVA provides independent support of Groves's [pp. 44-53 in Proceedings of the Third International Congress on Primatology, Vol. 1 (Basel: S. Karger), in 1971)] classification of Nycticebus into two species, with four subspecies in the common slow loris and one form of the pygmy slow loris. Within N. coucang, cranial proportions for all four subspecies are ontogenetically scaled, and size differentiation is mainly clinal (Bergmann's Rule). N. c. bengalensis represents the most northerly disposed and the largest form. N. c. javanicus represents the next-largest form and is located in a southerly direction the next-farthest away from the equator. N. c. coucang and N. c. menagensis are both equatorial; however, the latter subspecies is the smallest. A genetic basis for some of the taxonomic variation between N. c. coucang and N. c. menagensis is supported by such nonclinal variation in body size. Variation in the presence/absence of I2 is not size-related but rather tracks geographic proximity and isolating factors which predate the most recent inundation of the Sunda Shelf. Although they inhabit a nonequatorial environment, pygmy slow lorises are the smallest of all Nycticebus. As N. pygmaeus is sympatric with N. c. bengalensis, the largest slow loris, it appears that the evolution of its smaller body size represents a case of character displacement. Unlike N. coucang, skull size becomes significantly smaller in more northern N. pygmaeus. This may also reflect character displacement between sympatric sister taxa underlain by a cline-dependent ecological factor which is marked in more northerly latitudes. On the other hand, the negative correlation between body size and latitude in N. pygmaeus could be due to the influence of nonprimate fauna, such as predators, which themselves evince a similar clinal pattern. Analyses of relative growth indicate that skull proportions in the two species of Nycticebus are ontogenetically scaled in two-thirds of the cases. All but one of the seven comparisons (interorbital breadth) which do not indicate ontogenetic scaling represent part of the masticatory complex. This likely reflects a reorganization of N. pygmaeus maxillomandibular proportions linked to smaller size and changes in diet.

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