Wednesday, August 10, 2005

ENV: Two new lemurs!

From Thoughts from Kansas and Science Blog come a report of two new lemur species from Madagascar. Here's the description.

The text quoted at TfK:

Northern Giant Mouse Lemur
The first new lemur was discovered when scientists analyzed and compared morphological, genetic and behavior data from distinct populations of the giant mouse lemur, Mirza coquereli.

Traditionally, only one species of giant mouse lemur has been recognized. Two distinct populations of Mirza coquereli were known to occur on the island, one in the west and the other in the north. Fieldwork by a DPZ team led by Kappeler revealed morphological and behavioral differences between members of these two populations of Mirza coquereli. This suggested that the two populations actually represented distinct species. Comparative genetic analyses by Christian Roos confirmed the distinctiveness of the two populations and led to the description of the northern population as a new species, Mirza zaza. The two species have been separated for about 2 million years.

Mirza zaza is nocturnal and the size of a gray squirrel weighing about 10 ounces (300 grams). It has a long bushy tail, relatively small ears and large testes, which are suggestive of a promiscuous mating system.

Goodman's mouse lemur
The genetic analyses to determine the taxonomic status of the two Mirza populations unexpectedly revealed the existence of a new species of mouse lemur, Microcebus lehilahytsara. Earlier this year, Robert Zingg and Samuel Führer brought nine living individuals from Andasibe to Zoo Zürich in Switzerland, where additional morphometric and genetic analyses confirmed their separate taxonomic status.

The genus Microcebus traditionally has been comprised of eight species, six of which were described from western Madagascar only in the past decade. Now there are nine species of Microcebus.

Genetic analyses also revealed that this new mouse lemur from Andasibe, a popular tourist site in the eastern rainforest, diverged more than 2 million years ago from other mouse lemur populations in the region.

Microcebus lehilahytsara, the newly discovered species, lives in eastern Madagascar's rainforest. Only a little bigger than a big mouse, this arboreal, nocturnal mouse lemur has short, rounded ears, with a white stripe on the bridge of its nose. Its short, dense fur is bright maroon with an orange tinge on the back, head and tail, turning creamy white on its stomach.

Lehilahytsara means "good man" in Malagasy. The German primatologists chose this name to honor Steve Goodman, scientist with The Field Museum in Chicago and WWF in Madagascar. "Goodman's field research in all remote parts of Madagascar has contributed enormously to our knowledge about the diversity of Madagascar's unique and threatened fauna and flora," Kappeler says.


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