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Hybridisation Between Two Eulemur Species in the Wild

Dr. Jennifer Pastorini

Eulemur is the most diverse and widespread genus of the family Lemuridae, with five currently recognised species. The mongoose lemur, E. mongoz, occurs on two Comorian islands and in the northwest of Madagascar. The brown lemur, E. fulvus, has the largest distribution of the five Eulemur species and contains at least six subspecies. Brown lemurs are found in all forested areas of Madagascar except the south and on the Comorian island Mayotte. Mongoose lemurs and brown lemurs are the only two lemur species found outside Madagascar, and were probably introduced to the Comores by humans. E. fulvus is found in sympatry with all four other Eulemur species, including E. mongoz.

D. Curtis and A. Zaramody carried out a 10-month study on mongoose lemurs at Anjamena in northwestern Madagascar (Curtis 1997). During the field work they observed animals, whose pelage coloration were intermediate between E. mongoz and E.f. rufus. This phenotypic variation led them to suspect interspecific hybridisation at this site. This putative hybrid zone, has been substantiated by a brown lemur which has the mtDNA genotype of a mongoose lemur (Zaramody & Pastorini 2001).

We conducted a genetic survey of the hybrid zone between E. mongoz and E. fulvus in the wild using mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA markers. A fragment of mitochondrial DNA was sequenced and the data examined in an attempt to clarify phylogenetic relationships among mongoose lemurs and brown lemurs from Anjamena. Close attention was given to the relative positions within the genus Eulemur of each individual taken from this site. Microsatellites were also be analysed to investigate the level of nuclear gene flow between those two species in the wild.

This project was carried out in collaboration with Alphonse Zaramody (Université de Mahajanga, Madagascar) and Deborah J. Curtis (Oxford Brookes University, UK).

Curtis DJ (1997) The Mongoose Lemur (Eulemur mongoz): A Study in Behaviour and Ecology. Dissertation, Universität Zürich.

Zaramody A & Pastorini J (2001) Indications for hybridisation between red-fronted lemurs (Eulemur fulvus rufus) and mongoose lemurs (E. mongoz) in northwest Madagascar. Lemur News 6:28-31. Download pdf (108 KB)

Pastorini J, Zaramody A, Curtis DJ, Nievergelt CM & Mundy NI (2009) Genetic analysis of hybridization and introgression between wild mongoose and brown lemurs. BMC Evolutionary Biology 9:32. Abstract/Download

Dr. Deborah J. Curtis
Department of Anthropology & Geography, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK.

Alphonse Zaramody
Département des Sciences de la Terre, Université de Mahajanga, Mahajanga, Madagascar.