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Study By Hunter Professor: The Latest on Lemurs

Most people have heard of the butterfly effect – the notion that one small change in a system can have vast effects down the line – but what about the lemur effect? According to a recent study co-authored by Hunter Assistant Professor of Anthropology Andrea L. Baden, lemurs are not only interesting to look at; they’re linchpins of their ecosystem. These cute little creatures, indigenous to Madagascar, are currently the most endangered species in the world – and their extinction could have massively detrimental effects on plant life in their native island, disrupting the ecosystem of Madagascar’s forests.
Lemurs, which eat large-seeded plants, provide a crucial contribution to Madagascar’s unique biodiversity by acting as “seed dispersers,” feeders and spreaders of plant seed. As lemur species face extinction –at least 17 species have gone extinct in the past several thousand years – there are insufficient animal dispersers to take their place, leaving several plant species “orphaned.” Without intervention, these plant species too will become extinct.  The researchers in the recently published study, titled “Implications of lemuriform extinctions for the Malagasy flora,” present the first comprehensive analysis of lemur feeding and its effects on the long term survival of Malagasy plant lineages. Both a retrospective and a prognostic, the study contains yields insights and information that can help conservationists protect and restore these vulnerable ecosystems.
The study, of which Professor Baden is senior author, was published in the week of April 11th in the Proceedings of the National Academy and Sciences and is already receiving attention from the academic community. Funded largely by the National Science Foundation, it was co-authored with scholars and scientists from Yale, Duke, Pennsylvania State, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and the Institute of Systemic Botany at the New York Botanical Garden.
Congratulations to Professor Baden on this important achievement!

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