Nocturnal Animal Group (NAGAPIES)

The Nocturnal Animal Group (NAGAPIES) includes the major specialisations of the professional members of the APIES team. Judith Masters is an internationally recognised expert in the diversity and evolution of the African bushbabies (Galagidae). Fabien Génin has studied mouse lemurs (Microcebus) throughout his professional career, and conducted the first long-term field study of the reddish-grey mouse lemur Microcebus griseorufus, a project which has been continued by Hajarimanitra Rambeloarivony. Most current NAGAPIES projects have a major field component, and members of the group are actively pursuing field studies in Cameroon, Madagascar and South Africa.

NAGAPIES projects include:

  • The role of natural selection in strepsirhine evolution. This problematic has played a major role in directing the scientific career of Judith Masters, who, in her turn, inherited it from her doctoral supervisor at the University of the Witwatersrand, Hugh Paterson. Paterson originated the Recognition Concept of species, and Judith’s studies of strepsirhine systematics and modes of speciation have drawn extensively from the RC theoretical framework. Several APIES researchers and students have found the same framework to be heuristic, particularly Hajarimanitra Rambeloarivony, who has used it to organise his field-based, experimental investigation of speciation processes in cryptic mouse lemur species.  
  • The evolution, diversity, biogeography and conservation of the African bushbabies (Galagidae). The galagid radiation has formed the testing ground for species and speciation theories for several decades, and still serves as the basis for several international collaborations and postgraduate student projects. Doctoral student Derick Forbanka is conducting a comparative study of the evolution of obligate gummivory in galagos and lemurs, and has initiated a ground-breaking study of the little-known needle-clawed galagos (Euoticus) of West Africa in comparison with their lemuriform counterparts (Phaner) in Madagascar.  Under the field supervision of Fabien Génin, BSc Honours students Nokuthula Kom and Ayabulela Yokwana are studying the ecology and acoustic communication of the Mozambique galago (Galagoides granti), recently identified by us within the borders of South Africa, and raising the number of recognised indigenous primate species within South Africa from five to six. Other international collaborative projects under this theme include studies of galagid phylogeny and systematics (with Luca Pozzi, German Primate Center, Göettingen, Germany), and an extensive morphometric and biogeographic study including data from more than 3000 museum specimens (with Sébastien Couette, EPHE, Laboratoire Paléobiodiversité et Evolution & UMR uB CNRS 6282 « Biogéosciences », Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France).
  • Phylogenetic history and historical biogeography of the suborder Strepsirhini. This broad topic has formed the basis of several interdisciplinary collaborations between APIES members and researchers based at a variety other institutions, both within and outside South Africa. Accomplished research has involved reconstructions of evolutionary relationships among and within strepsirhine clades (Massimiliano DelPero, Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e Biologia dei Sistemi, Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy; Daniele Silvestro, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Sweden and Department of Ecology and Evolution, Biophore, University of Lausanne, Switzerland); mathematical and geophysical explorations of hypothetical biogeographic processes that enjoy popular support today, particularly transoceanic rafting scenarios (Maarten de Wit, AEON, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University; Barry Lovegrove, University of KwaZulu-Natal; Nomakwezi Mzilikazi, University of Pretoria; Jacek Stankiewicz, AEON and European Seismic Centre, Luxemborg;  Christien Thiart, University of Cape Town); and an ongoing investigation of body size evolution in strepsirhines, particularly with respect to models of primate ancestry (Adrian Lister, Earth Sciences Department, The Natural History Museum, London, UK).  
  • Current projects under this theme include a detailed study of the evolution of gummivory in strepsirhine primates using data from phylogenetics, craniodental anatomy and digestive physiology that has been initiated by doctoral student Curswan Andrews. This multi-faceted study will be co-supervised by Graham Kerley, Director of the Centre for African Conservation Ecology at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, and José Braga, Director or the AESOP programme at Paul Sabatier University, Toulouse, France. Additionally, an inter-disciplinary project involving APIES strepsirhine biologists; palaeontologists Sébastien Couette (EPHE, Laboratoire Paléobiodiversité et Evolution & UMR uB CNRS 6282 « Biogéosciences », Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France) and Adrian Lister (Earth Sciences Department, The Natural History Museum, London, UK); geologist/ geophysicist Maarten de Wit (AEON, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) and his team; and geneticist Luca Sineo (Dipartimento delle Scienze e Tecnologie  Biologiche Chimiche e Farmaceutiche, Università degli Studi di Palermo, Italy) is initiating a new study in the past and present biogeography of strepsirhine primates.
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