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Systematics

The roughly 250 animals spanning more than 15 species at the Duke Lemur Center represent the largest and most diverse collection of lemurs anywhere in the world. Lemurs account for about 20 percent of primate species, which makes them important for understanding the primate family tree and how primate biodiversity came to be.

Some lemur species look so similar they can only be distinguished by their DNA. Using genetic sequencing, scientists have identified two new species of mouse lemurs. Defining the number of existing species is key to conserving them. The new study brings the number of recognized mouse lemur species to 20, making them the most diverse group of lemurs known.

In another genetic analysis, researchers at the Duke Lemur Center were able to estimate when and how the lemur branch of the primate family split from our own. Such studies can help researchers figure out what traits distinguish humans and other primates from all other animals and when they arose.

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Related Publications

Rasoloarison, R., et al. (2013). “Two new species of mouse lemurs (Cheirogaleidae: Microcebus) from eastern Madagascar.” International Journal of Primatology 34(3): 455-469.

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