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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 May 3;113(18):5041-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1523825113. Epub 2016 Apr 11.

Implications of lemuriform extinctions for the Malagasy flora.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520;
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, NC 27601;
Institute of Systematic Botany, New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY 10458;
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520;
Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802; Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802;
Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708;
Department of Anthropology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520;
Department of Anthropology, Hunter College, New York, NY 10065; Department of Anthropology, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY 10065; The New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, New York, NY 10065.


Madagascar's lemurs display a diverse array of feeding strategies with complex relationships to seed dispersal mechanisms in Malagasy plants. Although these relationships have been explored previously on a case-by-case basis, we present here the first comprehensive analysis of lemuriform feeding, to our knowledge, and its hypothesized effects on seed dispersal and the long-term survival of Malagasy plant lineages. We used a molecular phylogenetic framework to examine the mode and tempo of diet evolution, and to quantify the associated morphological space occupied by Madagascar's lemurs, both extinct and extant. Using statistical models and morphometric analyses, we demonstrate that the extinction of large-bodied lemurs resulted in a significant reduction in functional morphological space associated with seed dispersal ability. These reductions carry potentially far-reaching consequences for Malagasy ecosystems, and we highlight large-seeded Malagasy plants that appear to be without extant animal dispersers. We also identify living lemurs that are endangered yet occupy unique and essential dispersal niches defined by our morphometric analyses.


Madagascar; anachronism; extinction; lemurs; seed dispersal

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