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AMS 14C Dates for Extinct Lemurs from Caves in the Ankarana Massif, Northern Madagascar

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Elwyn L. Simons
Duke University Primate Center, Durham, North Carolina 27705
David A. Burney
Department of Biological Sciences, Fordham University, Bronx, New York 10458
Prithijit S. Chatrath
Duke University Primate Center, Durham, North Carolina 27705
Laurie R. Godfrey
Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003 Department of Anatomical Sciences, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York 11794-8081
Berthe Rakotosamimanana
Service de Paléontologie, Université d'Antananarivo, Antananarivo, Madagascar


An extensive late Quaternary fauna, including many extinct giant lemurs, has been collected recently in a 110+-km system of caves in the Ankarana Massif of northern Madagascar. AMS 14C dates for the acid-insoluble (collagen/gelatin) fraction of bones of the giant lemur Megaladapis (26,150 ± 400 and 12,760 ± 70 yr B.P.) confirm its presence in the area during the late Pleistocene and provide the first Pleistocene 14 C ages from bones of the extinct megafauna of the island. The first date from bones of the recently described extinct Babakotia radofilai (4400 ± 60 yr B.P.) shows that it was present in northern Madagascar in mid-Holocene times. A comparatively recent age of 1020 ± 50 yr B.P. for the extinct Archaeolemur indicates survival of this genus for at least a millennium after the first direct evidence for humans in Madagascar. This suggests that the island's "extinction window" may have represented a longer time span than would have been expected under the Blitzkrieg model of late Quaternary extinctions. A mid-Holocene age (4560 ± 70 yr B.P.) for a bone sample of the small extant lemur Hapalemur simus indicates that the disappearance of this now-restricted species from the Ankarana occurred after this date. New data from the Ankarana and other sites on the island add to the consensus that major biotic changes occurred on Madagascar in the late Holocene.

Research Article
University of Washington

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