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Am J Primatol. 2001 Jul;54(3):129-41.

Colony specificity in a social call of mouse lemurs (Microcebus ssp.).

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Institut für Zoologie, Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover, Hannover, Germany.


Nocturnal primate species are often difficult to discriminate by gross visual bodily characteristics. This is also true for the world's smallest primate taxon, the Malagasy mouse lemurs. Recent findings imply that this taxon contains sibling species that can be diagnosed noninvasively by their species-specific advertisement call. We used comparative bioacoustics in order to explore variation of this call type and to assess species status of three European colonies. Acoustic variation was compared within and between colonies as well as with known species-specific differences. It was further related to morphological and genetic variations to investigate in how far it covaries with them. Results show that acoustic and genetic differences revealed by random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) fingerprinting separated colonies reliably, but were on a different level than known species-specific differences. A Mantel test showed that acoustic differences were weakly correlated to genetic, but not to morphological differences. Our study is the first to reveal that both acoustic signaling and genetics clearly establish the species status for nocturnal primate populations. It also suggests that acoustic traits change at a more obvious and rapid pace than morphology in isolated populations, and may be used as an indication of conditions that may favor the evolution of subspecies.

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