Eulemur Coronatus – a Keystone Species

Eulemur coronatus is a keystone species for the biodiversity in Madagascar. Efforts must be increased to protect this small primate.

 I would like to put forward the argument that the primate Eulemur Coronatus (crowned lemur) of the Strepsirhine family, as can be seen on the website Animal Diversity (animaldiversity.ummz) should be a species selected for conservation efforts.

Image via Wikipedia

I came to this decision when comparing two choices, the other being the Orangutan from Sumatra, Pongo Abelii.

The conservation status as identified on the IUCN redlist (iucnredlist.org) showed that Pongo Abelii was assessed as critically endangered in 2008. Eulemur Coronatus was assessed lower as vulnerable also in 2008.

However, there is much more information available when deciding which species to protect, and higher endangered rating does not necessarily mean the best candidate.

A concept brought up in discussion found that R.T Paine in 1969 completed work on the Keystone Species Hypothesis. This gave a definition for species which were essential to the ecosystem where they were found. Without them, dramatic changes would be seen.

Greenpeace class the Sumatran Orangutan as a keystone species however their claims may be biased due to being a conservation charity. As for Eulemur Coronatus, I was able to find supporting evidence that was possibly free from bias (relative to this work). Shapcott et al, 2007 state in a report that, “The results indicate that high levels of gene flow can be maintained between close populations and is likely to be facilitated by mobile frugivores such as lemurs…further habitat modification, which endangers these species will directly affect the long term viability of B.madigascariensis.” This shows that Eulemur Coronatus, amongst others, are responsible for the ecosystem in Madagascar. This view is further reinforced by Laurie Godfrey in “Madagascan Primates”. Therefore, even disregarding any bias we come to a Madagascar and Sumatra decision of which of the two areas is more important for biodiversity.

According to biodiversityhotspots.org, both are classed as biodiversity hotspots, with Madagascar coming higher in the rankings, and actually the most biodiverse place on Earth. Madagascar contains 5% of all species on Earth, 80% are endemic (only found on) to Madagascar. This includes lemurs.

Image via Wikipedia

When we protect biodiversity we must look at preserving the most different genes as possible and phylogenetic relationships show that crowned lemurs are very distant from other primates (tolweb.org). Therefore, they will contain fewer shared genes and more unique genes. This means that protecting them alone will not give a better spread of diverse genes, but the ecosystem they support contains many different species and therefore genes.

The main threat to lemurs, is the destruction of habitat in slash and burn practices (Sodikoff, American Anthropologist) therefore reducing this in Madagascar would benfit the lemurs, and in turn, the whole ecosystem meaning greater protected biodiversity.

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