Ecogeographic size variation in small-bodied subfossil primates from Ankilitelo, southwestern Madagascar.
Variation in body size is well documented for both extant and extinct Malagasy primates, and appears to be correlated with geographic patterns of resource seasonality. Less attention has been paid to extant lemurs in subfossil collections, although it has been suggested that subfossil forms of extant species are characterized by greater size than their modern counterpart. This trend of phyletic size change has been related to climate change, habitat fragmentation, or human hunting. However, space- and time-averaging in the subfossil samples of previous studies may have obscured more general ecogeographic patterns underlying these size differences. Our objective is to examine size variation in subfossil still-extant primates within a regional comparative context to determine if subfossil and living forms conform to similar ecogeographic patterns. We report on the subfossil still-extant primate assemblage from Ankilitelo, southwestern Madagascar (approximately 500 yr BP) to test this hypothesis. The Ankilitelo primates were compared with museum specimens of known locality. Extant taxa were assigned to one of five distinct ecogeographic regions, including spiny thicket, dry deciduous forest, succulent woodland, lowland and subhumid rainforest. Comparisons of tooth size in extant lemurs reveal significant geographical patterns of variation within genera. In general, the primates from Ankilitelo are indeed larger than their modern counterpart. However, these differences fit an ecoregional model of size variation, whereby Ankilitelo species are comparable in size to living forms inhabiting ecoregions present near the cave today. This suggests that Malagasy primates have been subjected to similar patterns of resource seasonality for at least 500 years.
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