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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2012 Mar;147(3):401-8. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.22002. Epub 2012 Jan 23.

Testing Bergmann's rule and the resource seasonality hypothesis in Malagasy primates using GIS-based climate data.

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Department of Anthropology, Yale University, New Haven, CT; Department of Anatomy, Midwestern University, Glendale, AZ, USA.


We tested four major hypotheses on the ecological aspects of body mass variation in extant Malagasy strepsirrhines: thermoregulation, resource seasonality/scarcity, resource quality, and primary productivity. These biogeographic hypotheses focus on the ecological aspects of body mass variation, largely ignoring the role of phylogeny for explaining body mass variation within lineages. We tested the independent effects of climate and resource-related variables on variation in body mass among Malagasy primates using recently developed comparative methods that account for phylogenetic history and spatial autocorrelation. We extracted data on lemur body mass and climate variables for a total of 43 species from 39 sites. Climatic data were obtained from the WorldClim database, which is based on climate data from weather stations compiled around the world. Using generalized linear models that incorporate parameters to account for phylogenetic and spatial autocorrelation, we found that diet and climate variables were weak predictors of lemur body mass. Moreover, there was a strong phylogenetic effect relative to the effects of space on lemur body mass in all models. Thus, we failed to find support for any of the four hypotheses on patterns of geography and body mass in extant strepsirrhines. Our results indicate that body mass has been conserved since early in the evolutionary history of each genus, while species diversified into different environmental niches. Our findings are in contrast to some previous studies that have suggested resource and climate related effects on body mass, though these studies have examined this question at different taxonomic and/or geographic scales.

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