Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Species Diversity Of Enigmatic 'Flying Lemurs' Doubled By New Study

Date:
November 13, 2008
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Colugos, the closest living relatives of primates most notable for their ability to glide from tree to tree over considerable distances, are more diverse than had previously been believed, according to a new report in Current Biology.

Coluga gliding with baby.
Credit: Norman Lim

Colugos (aka flying lemurs)—the closest living relatives of primates most notable for their ability to glide from tree to tree over considerable distances—are more diverse than had previously been believed, according to a new report published in the November 11th issue of Current Biology.

Primates are most familiarly represented by monkeys and apes, the group including humans.

Scientists had recognized just two species of these enigmatic mammals, the Sunda colugo and the Philippine colugo. However, the new findings show that the Sunda colugo, found only in Indochina and Sundaland, including the large islands of Borneo, Sumatra, and Java, actually represents at least three separate species.

"We were guessing that we might find that there were different species of Sunda colugo—although we were not sure," said Jan Janecka of Texas A&M University. "But what really surprised us was how old the speciation events were. Some went back four to five million years," making the colugo species as old as other modern species groups (or genera) such as the primates known as macaques and the leopard cats.

The team's initial hunch that the Sunda colugos might be distinct species came largely from obvious differences in characteristics like body size and color. In the new study, they compared the DNA of colugos living on the mainland, Java, and Borneo, uncovering enough divergence between the sequences to warrant their designation as three species.

Janecka said they were particularly surprised to find that each geographic region they studied harbors its own unique species of colugo. And the species tally for colugos will likely continue to rise. "It appears that within smaller geographic areas, for example Java, there are divergent colugo lineages that could prove to be separate species," he added.

That diversification might be explained by the colugos' unusual way of getting around. While they have the most developed gliding membrane of any mammal, they are nearly helpless on the ground, leaving them incapable of crossing large open spaces that lack trees. As sea levels, forest communities, and river systems fluctuated in Sundaland over the last 10 million years, Janecka speculates that isolated colugo populations would have undergone greater diversification from one another than other, more mobile mammals.

The findings have important conservation implications for the colugos, which had been largely ignored because of their apparent abundance.

"Until now, reductions in colugo numbers was considered just a range contraction, and so there were no conservation plans for restoring them or mitigating their loss," Janecka said, noting that the colugos occupy areas that are now experiencing some of the most rapid loss of forest habitat in the world. "However, this is no longer the case; we now need to re-assess the status of each of these species to determine which of them are under threat of extinction, and develop conservation plans that ensure their persistence. In addition, some of the small isolated populations that were previously described as subspecies may also represent new species, which could disappear before we even realize they exist."

The researchers include Jan E. Janecka, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX; Kristofer M. Helgen, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Norman T-L. Lim, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore, Singapore; Minoru Baba, Kitakyushu Museum of Natural History and Human History, Kitakyushu, Japan; Masako Izawa, University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan; Boeadi, Museum Zoologi Bogor (Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense), Cibinong, Indonesia; and William J. Murphy, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Species Diversity Of Enigmatic 'Flying Lemurs' Doubled By New Study." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081110153612.htm>.
Cell Press. (2008, November 13). Species Diversity Of Enigmatic 'Flying Lemurs' Doubled By New Study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081110153612.htm
Cell Press. "Species Diversity Of Enigmatic 'Flying Lemurs' Doubled By New Study." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081110153612.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins