TABLE 16–3 Primate Endemism in the 15 Countries With the Greatest Primate Diversity

Country

Endemic Species (%)

Endemic Genera (%)

Madagascar

93

92

Indonesia

44–50

12.5

Brazil

35

12.5

Colombia

11

0

Peru

7

0

Zaire

6–7

0

Nigeria

4

0

Cameroon

0

0

Congo

0

0

Equatorial Guinea

0

0

Central African Republic

0

0

Gabon

0

0

Uganda

0

0

Bolivia

0

0

Angola

0

0

from the African mainland for perhaps as long as 200 million years, if in fact it was ever connected, and most of the plant and animal species found there have evolved in isolation and are unique to the island.

The most striking and conspicuous animals on Madagascar are the primates, which consist entirely of lemurs. Among these lemurs are some of the most unusual primates on Earth, ranging from the mouse lemur, which is the smallest living primate, to the indri, which is the largest living prosimian, and the aye-aye, which is the strangest of all primates and the only representative of an entire primate family, the Daubentoniidae.

This lemur radiation on Madagascar is one of the most diverse primate faunas anywhere, its 29 species placing it fourth on the world list of primate diversity behind Brazil, Zaire, and Indonesia (even though it is only 7% the size of Brazil, Table 16–2). When endemism is considered, Madagascar’s primate fauna seems even more impressive, since 93% of all its species are restricted to that country—a figure not even approached by any other country (Table 16–3). Furthermore, the two lemur species found outside Madagascar reside only on the nearby Comoros Islands and are probably recent introductions by humans.

The situation is much the same for most other groups of organisms in Madagascar. Seven of the eight species of carnivores found there are endemic, as are 29 of the 30 tenrecs, 106 of the 250 birds, 233 of the 245 reptiles, 142 of the 144 frogs, 110 of the 112 species of palms, and 80% of its nearly 8,000 angiosperm plants. It is not just endemism that is impressive on Madagascar, however, but total diversity as well. Although Madagascar is only about 40% again as large as the state of California and accounts for less than 2% of the African region, its 8,000 angiosperm plants represent 25% of all angiosperms in Africa (P.Lowry, personal communication, 1987), it has more orchids than the entire African mainland, and its 13 living primate genera approach the 14 to 15 mainland genera in total diversity.



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