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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Dr Sharon Kessler

Hasiniaina, Alida Frankline, Radespiel, Ute, Kessler, Sharon E., Rina Evasoa, Mamy, Rasoloharijaona, Solofonirina, Randrianambinina, Blanchard, Zimmermann, Elke, Schmidt, Sabine & Scheumann, Marina (2020). Evolutionary significance of the variation in acoustic communication of a cryptic nocturnal primate radiation (Microcebus spp.). Ecology and Evolution 10(8): 3784-3797.

Author(s) from Durham


Acoustic phenotypic variation is of major importance for speciation and the evolution of species diversity. Whereas selective and stochastic forces shaping the acoustic divergence of signaling systems are well studied in insects, frogs, and birds, knowledge on the processes driving acoustic phenotypic evolution in mammals is limited. We quantified the acoustic variation of a call type exchanged during agonistic encounters across eight distinct species of the smallest‐bodied nocturnal primate radiation, the Malagasy mouse lemurs. The species live in two different habitats (dry forest vs. humid forest), differ in geographic distance to each other, and belong to four distinct phylogenetic clades within the genus. Genetically defined species were discriminated reliably on the phenotypic level based on their acoustic distinctiveness in a discriminant function analysis. Acoustic variation was explained by genetic distance, whereas differences in morphology, forest type, or geographic distance had no effect. The strong impact of genetics was supported by a correlation between acoustic and genetic distance and the high agreement in branching pattern between the acoustic and molecular phylogenetic trees. In sum, stochastic factors such as genetic drift best explained acoustic diversification in a social communication call of mouse lemurs.