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True lemurs…true species - species delimitation using multiple data sources in the brown lemur complex

Matthias Markolf1*, Hanitriniaina Rakotonirina1, Claudia Fichtel1, Phillip von Grumbkow2, Markus Brameier3 and Peter M Kappeler14

Author Affiliations

1 Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit, German Primate Center, Göttingen, Germany

2 Department of Historical Anthropology, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany

3 Primate Genetics Laboratory, German Primate Center, Göttingen, Germany

4 Department of Sociobiology/Anthropology, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:233  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-233

Published: 26 October 2013



Species are the fundamental units in evolutionary biology. However, defining them as evolutionary independent lineages requires integration of several independent sources of information in order to develop robust hypotheses for taxonomic classification. Here, we exemplarily propose an integrative framework for species delimitation in the “brown lemur complex” (BLC) of Madagascar, which consists of seven allopatric populations of the genus Eulemur (Primates: Lemuridae), which were sampled extensively across northern, eastern and western Madagascar to collect fecal samples for DNA extraction as well as recordings of vocalizations. Our data base was extended by including museum specimens with reliable identification and locality information for skull shape and pelage color analysis.


Between-group analyses of principal components revealed significant heterogeneity in skull shape, pelage color variation and loud calls across all seven populations. Furthermore, post-hoc statistical tests between pairs of populations revealed considerable discordance among different data sets for different dyads. Despite a high degree of incomplete lineage sorting among nuclear loci, significant exclusive ancestry was found for all populations, except for E. cinereiceps, based on one mitochondrial and three nuclear genetic loci.


Using several independent lines of evidence, our results confirm the species status of the members of the BLC under the general lineage concept of species. More generally, the present analyses demonstrate the importance and value of integrating different kinds of data in delimiting recently evolved radiations.

Species delimitation; Eulemur; Madagascar; Taxonomic inflation; Integrative taxonomy