Because of their exceptionally long independent evolution, a range diminution of their Eocene relatives, and a remarkable subsequent diversification in Southeast Asia, tarsiers are of particular importance to evolutionary primatologists. Little is known, however, on the processes shaping the radiation of these small enigmatic primates-especially on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, their center of endemism. Geological reconstructions and progress in applying DNA sequence information to divergence dating now provide us with the tools and background to comprehend tarsier dispersal. Here, we describe effects of plate-tectonic movements, Pleistocene sea level changes, and hybridization on the divergence of central Sulawesi tarsiers. We analyzed 12 microsatellites, the cytochrome b gene, the hypervariable region I of the mitochondrial control region, and the sex-determining region on the Y-chromosome from 144 specimens captured along a transect crossing a species boundary and a contact zone between 2 microplates. Based on these differentially inherited genetic markers, geographic information, and recordings of vocalizations, we demonstrate that the species boundary coincides with a tectonic suture. We estimate the most recent common ancestor of the 2 taxa to have lived 1.4 Mya, we describe asymmetrical introgressive hybridization, and we give evidence of unbiased dispersal in one species and male-biased dispersal in another species. This study exemplifies that the distribution of tarsier acoustic forms on Sulawesi is consistent with the allocation of genetic variability and that plate-tectonic and glacial events have left traceable marks in the biogeography of this island’s unique fauna.
Publish in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2009 May 26; 106(21): 8459-8464.