Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 August 2009
Understanding the patterns of community structure is one of the eternal, basic goals of ecology, while measuring and monitoring diversity is a necessity for conservation biology. The fundamental data set for both of these is the simple species list. Every chapter in this book is directly or indirectly based on site-specific primate lists. Complete primate lists for localities number in dozens for every major biogeographic region, but despite the obvious ecological importance of mammals, the complete composition of few, if any, tropical forest mammal faunas is known. This knowledge vacuum is a consequence not only of the intrinsic difficulty of sampling species which cannot be seen and are not readily captured, but also of large temporal fluctuations in small mammal densities that result in rare species often being undetectable except during periods of peak population. Of all forest mammals, primates are the most easily identified and most quickly inventoried and monitored. In this chapter I explore the question of how primate species richness relates to the species richness of mammals in other taxa at given localities; how these patterns vary among different continents; on what scale patterns occur; and whether primates are good indicators of mammalian species richness. I conclude with comments on the possible underlying causes of some of the patterns discovered.
Mammal species are difficult to inventory, but some (animals not captured by standard methods, such as shrews, small insectivorous marsupials, high-flying bats, etc.) are much more difficult than others. For this reason, ‘complete’ inventories of the most difficult habitat, tropical rainforest, may not exist. Of all mammals, primates are the most easily inventoried, being diurnal, large, conspicuous, and noisy.