Tattersall-2013 - M A DAG A SC A R CO NSERVAT I O N D E V...

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MADAGASCAR CONSERVATION & DEVELOPMENT VOLUME 8 | ISSUE 1 — JULY 2013 PAGE 7 SPOTLIGHTS http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mcd.v8i1.2 Ian Tattersall American Museum of Natural History New York, NY 10024 U.S.A. E - mail: iant @ amnh.org Understanding species - level primate diversity in Madagascar ABSTRACT Over the past couple of decades Madagascar has witnessed an explosion in the number of primate species generally recog- nized. Much of this proliferation can be traced less to increasing knowledge of the lemur fauna than to the complete replacement of biological notions of the species by the Phylogenetic Species Concept (PSC), which views species as irreducible diagnosable units. The consequent focus on autapomorphy (unique posses- sion of morphological and molecular derived features) as ‘the’ criterion for species recognition has led to the almost complete disappearance of lemur subspecies from Madagascar faunal lists; yet subspecies are an expected result of the evolutionary forces that gave rise to the island’s current pattern of biodiver- sity. Thanks in part to the perspective introduced by the PSC, it has become clear both that there is much more species - level diversity among Madagascar’s lemurs than was evident only a couple of decades ago, and that this diversity is much more complexly structured than we had thought. But it does not appear to be aptly reflected in the hard - line procedural adop- tion of the PSC across the board, a move that typically results in fifty-percent inflation in species numbers relative to those yielded by biological concepts. I argue here that the reflexive wholesale application of the PSC to Madagascar’s lemurs is inappropriate from both systematic and conservation stand- points, and that a return to biological species concepts, and to the corresponding criteria for species recognition, will allow us to attain a much fuller and more nuanced appreciation of lemur diversity at low taxonomic levels. RÉSUMÉ Depuis la fin du siècle dernier, nous avons été les témoins d’une explosion du nombre d’espèces de primates à Madagascar. Cette profusion découle cependant bien moins de l’évolution de nos connaissances sur les lémuriens que de la substitution des concepts biologiques de l’espèce par le Concept Phylogénétique de l’Espèce (CPE ou Phylogenetic Species Concept – PSC), ce dernier considérant l’espèce comme le plus petit groupe irré- ductible d’organismes qui puisse être différencié d’un autre groupe. L’autapomorphie (c’est - à - dire la possession de cara- ctères dérivés uniques, morphologiques et moléculaires) est ainsi devenue ‘le’ critère pour distinguer les espèces, de sorte que la quasi - totalité des sous - espèces de lémuriens ont dis- paru des listes fauniques de Madagascar ; sachant cependant que les sous - espèces sont un résultat escompté des forces de l’évolution qui ont forgé la biodiversité que nous observons aujourd’hui sur l’île. Élever toutes les sous - espèces au rang
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Tattersall-2013 - M A DAG A SC A R CO NSERVAT I O N D E V...

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