Cryptic Patterns of Speciation in Cryptic Primates: Microendemic Mouse Lemurs and the Multispecies Coalescent

Jelmer W. Poelstra, Jordi Salmona, George P. Tiley, Dominik Schüßler, Marina B. Blanco, Jean B. Andriambeloson, Olivier Bouchez, C. Ryan Campbell, Paul D. Etter, Paul A. Hohenlohe, Kelsie E. Hunnicutt, Amaia Iribar, Eric A. Johnson, Peter M. Kappeler, Peter A. Larsen, Sophie Manzi, JosÉ M. Ralison, Blanchard Randrianambinina, Rodin M. Rasoloarison, David W. RasolofosonAmanda R. Stahlke, David W. Weisrock, Rachel C. Williams, LounÈs Chikhi, Edward E. Louis, Ute Radespiel, Anne D. Yoder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Mouse lemurs (Microcebus) are a radiation of morphologically cryptic primates distributed throughout Madagascar for which the number of recognized species has exploded in the past two decades. This taxonomic revision has prompted understandable concern that there has been substantial oversplitting in the mouse lemur clade. Here, we investigate mouse lemur diversity in a region in northeastern Madagascar with high levels of microendemism and predicted habitat loss. We analyzed RADseq data with multispecies coalescent (MSC) species delimitation methods for two pairs of sister lineages that include three named species and an undescribed lineage previously identified to have divergent mtDNA. Marked differences in effective population sizes, levels of gene flow, patterns of isolation-by-distance, and species delimitation results were found among the two pairs of lineages. Whereas all tests support the recognition of the presently undescribed lineage as a separate species, the species-level distinction of two previously described species, M. mittermeieri and M. lehilahytsara is not supported - a result that is particularly striking when using the genealogical discordance index (gdi). Nonsister lineages occur sympatrically in two of the localities sampled for this study, despite an estimated divergence time of less than 1 Ma. This suggests rapid evolution of reproductive isolation in the focal lineages and in the mouse lemur clade generally. The divergence time estimates reported here are based on the MSC calibrated with pedigree-based mutation rates and are considerably more recent than previously published fossil-calibrated relaxed-clock estimates. We discuss the possible explanations for this discrepancy, noting that there are theoretical justifications for preferring the MSC estimates in this case.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-218
Number of pages16
JournalSystematic Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).


  • Cryptic species
  • effective population size
  • microendemism
  • multispecies coalescent
  • speciation
  • species delimitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Cryptic Patterns of Speciation in Cryptic Primates: Microendemic Mouse Lemurs and the Multispecies Coalescent'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this