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Evolution in the hypervariable environment of Madagascar
- Dewar, Robert E., Richard, Alison F.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2007 v.104 no.34 pp. 13723-13727
- Herpestidae, birds, ecoregions, evolution, fauna, flowering, frugivores, fruiting, life history, mammals, rain, Madagascar
- We show that the diverse ecoregions of Madagascar share one distinctive climatic feature: unpredictable intra- or interannual precipitation compared with other regions with comparable rainfall. Climatic unpredictability is associated with unpredictable patterns of fruiting and flowering. It is argued that these features have shaped the evolution of distinctive characteristics in the mammalian fauna of the island. Endemic Herpestidae and Tenrecidae and members of five endemic primate families differ from closely related species elsewhere, exhibiting extremes of "fastness" and "slowness" in their life histories. Climatic features may also account for the dearth of frugivorous birds and mammals in Madagascar, and for the evolutionary prevalence of species with large body mass.