Tiny, nocturnal primate lives in area threatened by mining
Genetic tests have spotted a new subspecies of Philippine tarsier, one of the world’s smallest — and arguably cutest — primates. Previously, taxonomists had used physical features, such as body proportion and hair color and length, to determine that there are anywhere between three and seven subspecies of this rare nocturnal mammal. To clarify that confusion, Rafe Brownof the University of Kansas in Lawrence and other researchers recently examined DNA samples collected from tarsiers from across the southeastern Philippines. The comparison divvied the tarsiers into five lineages, including an unexpected variety on Dinagat Island and the Caraga region of nearby Mindanao Island. Wildlife sanctuaries partially encompass the habitats of the four other lineages, but the realm of the Dinagat-Caraga tarsier has historically lacked protection and is threatened by recent expansion of mining activities, the scientists report August 19 in PLOS ONE.
R.M. Brown et al. Conservation genetics of the Philippine tarsier: cryptic genetic variation restructures conservation priorities for an island archipelago primate. PLOS ONE. Published online August 19, 2014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104340.
B. Bower. Fossil sheds light on early primates. Science News. Vol. 183, June 29, 2013, p. 14.