One lemur, two lemur, three lemur, four: Genetic study reveals the hidden diversity of Madagascar’s mouse lemurs
A grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus). Image from Wikipedia.
Charles Darwin’s visit to the Galapagos Archipelago has been celebrated time and again for its influence on his evolutionary thoughts, but I have to wonder what would have happened if the Beagle skipped the Galapagos and visited Madagascar instead. What would Darwin have made of the animals which had been evolving in splendid isolation on the African island? Would “Darwin’s lemurs”, rather than Darwin’s finches, be among the most recognizable icons of evolution?
Answers to such questions are beyond our grasp, but the diverse array of lemurs which dwell on Madagascar are a stunning example of evolutionary diversification on an island. After the ancestors of modern-day