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Unformatted text preview: t for general inquiries regarding MCD [email protected] to support the journal Madagascar Conservation & Development Institute and Museum of Anthropology U niversity of Zurich W interthurerstrasse 190 C H-8057 Zurich, Switzerland Indian Ocean e-Ink Promoting African Publishing and Education Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) Madagascar Research and Conservation Program BP 3391 Antananarivo, 101, Madagascar M A DAG A SC A R CO NSERVAT I O N & D E V ELO PM EN T VOLUME 8 | I SSUE 1 — J ULY 2013 B y the mid - twentieth century most zoologists had moved b eyond earlier typologies, and had come to embrace the Biologi cal Species Concept (BSC), in which the species was regarded a s the largest effective reproducing population. Individuals r esembled each other because they belonged to the same s pecies, rather than vice versa (cf. Mayr 1982). Accordingly, t his was largely an age of taxonomic inclusivity. The two major s ystematic overviews of Madagascar’s primates published in t he 1970s and 1980s (Petter et al. 1977, Tattersall 1982) both h ewed quite closely to Ernst Schwarz’s (1931) pioneering genusa nd species - level revision of several decades earlier. Based e ntirely on the scrutiny of museum specimens, Schwarz had reduced the total number of lemur species to 20. Nine of these w ere polytypic, with a total of 26 subspecies among them. By t he time I completed my own synthesis more than half a century l ater (Tattersall 1982), students of the lemur fauna enjoyed the c onsiderable benefit of a growing corpus of field observations i n addition to the museum collections. But, even so, I was still a ble to recognize only 22 species. Seven of these were polytypic, t o a total of 29 subspecies. So much for minimalism. Over the last two decades, the n umber of species - level lemur taxa has exploded. When Mitter- The simplified focus on diagnosability is quite understand able, appealing as it does to the innately reductionist proclivities of the human mind. What’s more, on the operational level, n arrowing the emphasis to this single criterion hugely simplifies t he complex task of identifying species. Whether you are in the f ield, or in a museum, or in your laboratory, if you can recognize i t, it’s a species. All it takes is one nice distinguishing feature t o do the trick. Both in the forest and in the storage cabinet, f avored species - group features of this kind have traditionally c onsisted of what we used to call ‘external’ characters, visible t o the naked eye: pelage coloration, ear size, and so forth. Particularly in the case of cryptically - colored and mostly smallbodied nocturnal primates, field workers have long also leaned u pon vocal characteristics as species recognition criteria. And m ost recently, of course, the ultimate reductive weapon of DNA d istance has been extensively deployed, albeit often via crude b ase-substitution counts at various marker positions, principally i n the mitochondrial genome. Hence the massive loss of lemur subspecies between 1982 a nd 2010, as the PSC began to bite in strepsirhine systematics. V...
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