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The Evolution of Cathemerality in Primates and Other Mammals: A Comparative and Chronoecological ApproachCurtis D.J.a · Rasmussen M.A.b
aCentre for Research in Evolutionary Anthropology, School of Human and Life Sciences, Roehampton University, London, UK; bDepartment of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Duke University, Durham, N.C., USA
Non-primate mammalian activity cycles are highly variable across and within taxonomic groups. In contrast, the order Primates has historically been recognized as displaying a diurnal-nocturnal dichotomy that mapped, for the most part, onto the taxonomic division between haplorhines and strepsirhines. However, it has become clear over the past two decades that activity cycles in primates are not quite so clear cut. Some primate species – like many large herbivorous mammals, mustelids, microtine rodents, and shrews – exhibit activity both at night and during the day. This activity pattern is often polyphasic or ultradian (several short activity bouts per 24-hour period), in contrast to the generally monophasic pattern (one long bout of activity per 24-hour period) observed in diurnal and nocturnal mammals. Alternatively, it can vary on a seasonal basis, with nocturnal activity exhibited during one season, and diurnal activity during the other season. The term now generally employed to describe the exploitation of both diurnal and nocturnal phases in primates is ‘cathemeral’. Cathemerality has been documented in one haplorhine, the owl monkey, Aotus azarai, in the Paraguayan and Argentinian Chaco and in several Malagasy strepsirhines, including Eulemur spp., Hapalemur sp. and Lemur catta. In this paper, we review patterns of day-night activity in primates and other mammals and investigate the potential ecological and physiological bases underlying such 24-hour activity. Secondly, we will consider the role of cathemerality in primate evolution.
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