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The effect of island area on body size in a primate species from the Sunda Shelf Islands

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Abstract Aim 

We examine the effect of island area on body dimensions in a single species of primate endemic to Southeast Asia, the long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis). In addition, we test Allen’s rule and a within-species or intraspecific equivalent of Bergmann’s rule (i.e. Rensch’s rule) to evaluate body size and shape evolution in this sample of insular macaques. Location 

The Sunda Shelf islands of Southeast Asia. Methods 

Body size measurements of insular macaques gathered from the literature were analysed relative to island area, latitude, maximum altitude, isolation from the mainland and other islands, and various climatic variables using linear regression. Results 

We found no statistically significant relationship between island area and body length or head length in our sample of insular long-tailed macaques. Tail length correlated negatively with island area. Head length and body length exhibited increases corresponding to increasing latitude, a finding seemingly consistent with the expression of Bergmann’s rule within a single species. These variables, however, were not correlated with temperature, indicating that Bergmann’s rule is not in effect. Tail length was not correlated with either temperature or increasing latitude, contrary to that predicted by Allen’s rule. Main conclusions 

The island rule dictating that body size will covary with island area does not apply to this particular species of primate. Our study is consistent with results presented in the literature by demonstrating that skull and body length in insular long-tailed macaques do not, strictly speaking, conform to Rensch’s rule. Unlike previous studies, however, our findings suggest that tail-length variation in insular macaques does not support Allen’s rule.

Keywords: Allen’s rule; Bergmann’s rule; Macaca; Rensch’s rule; Southeast Asia; body size; geographical variation; island biogeography; island rule; macaques; primates

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: The Nature Conservancy, Tropical Forest Initiative, Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia and School of Archaeology & Anthropology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia 2: Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

Publication date: February 1, 2009


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