by Chris Wayan, 2010
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This new page is so far just a patchwork of excerpts from tours relevant to lemurs. So bear with me (oops. Primate with me). Siphonia is a work in progress...
Lemurs are one of a dozen new intelligent species that have arisen in response to the profound environmental changes Earth underwent in becoming Siphonia--especially the huge new ocean basins, hot, rainy, and oxygen-rich.
The west or Madagascar coast of the Mascarene Sea rises sharply to 6900 m high (nearly 23,000')--as high as our Andes. The ex-island's mountainous spine is now snowy in winter and bears small glaciers. Definitely not lemur country any more!
But the lemurs are still here, just lower down the slopes--and larger. With lungs and brains supercharged by the dense, oxygen-rich air of the Deep, lemurs, like African apes, have grown both physically and mentally--probably to human levels. They have broad new habitats in which to do it--Madagascar has tripled in size and is linked to new lands south and east. Siphonia has much more rainforest than Earth--indeed, you could almost circumbrachiate the planet--swing around it Tarzan style, without ever leaving the trees. Well, those pesky Americas are still in the way--too high and cold. But that wall's on the far side of the world; Madagascar's now the center of the jungle-basin complex. The lemurs (like the orangutans of Sumatra and Borneo) will spread the way humans did when we exploded out of Africa. There's plenty of new habitat available that humans can't comfortably settle.
Lemurs may have required the bizarre conditions of the Deeps to evolve, but they can endure that thin upland air; pioneers spread. Whether you like it hot or cold, Siphonia's many landbridges make it easier for a creature to end up worldwide--patchily distributed, perhaps, but ringing the globe. Fliers are the exception; newly exposed mountain ranges and of course the ex-continents can pose fatal barriers to megaparrots and blue ravens, now so huge they fly clumsily (if at all) out of the Deeps. And gliderwolves are grounded entirely except on the abyssal floor.
The result of all this spread? All over the warmer parts of Siphonia--mostly but not all lowlands--you'll find otter-run diving tours, bonobo-run conference centers and Club Meds with really, really loud lemur bands.
I just trivialized a real point, one we've seen on Réunion and Mauritius: this Madagascar coast is a third biological hotspot where habitats meet--not necessarily a biomass- but a diversity-hotspot. And on Siphonia, biological diversity breeds cultural diversity. Once intelligence crops up in more than one species, such meeting places become innovation centers.
The idea that geography could substantially foster or suppress ideas seems odd to us, but it's true even on monotonous Earth, where a single species of ape gets all the patents! But not evenly. As I write, one-fourth of all patentable U.S. inventions are registered in a single coastal state with two major ports, California. Culturally diverse port cities innovate the most. Social and political policies matter, but until the present century the soil of any renaissance required a little sea-salt: harbors were the portals to the world. Airlines and the Web are at last decentralizing human civilization, but for millennia seaports had a near-monopoly on real innovation.
On Siphonia, these ecodiverse hotspots are strong rivals to port cities; and they occur around sharp differences in altitude in climates warm enough so life can take advantage of the full range of niches up those mountain slopes. Madagascar is ideal.
This Madagascar coast isn't a hotspot of innovation, either: it's a long strip, extending over a thousand miles (1600 km) beyond our island's end. This southern part of the range is lower and breaks up some, but peaks like Mt Walters still are Alpine in height. Still, the snowy wall is gone; inland is a rolling high plateau with mild winters, not so different from Old Madagascar's highlands, and ideal for lemurs (and humans, and llamas). When our Madagascar iced over, this is where the biomass fled! It became the bridge by which the swiftly mutating lemurs spread into the Deeps to the east; they certainly didn't cross that ice wall to the north!
The east or Seychellian shore of the Mascarene Sea is low, a long strip of rainforest hundreds of km deep, slowly rising inland toward the arc of limestone plateaus that define it--Seychelle itself, Saya de Malha, Nazareth, and Carajos. These former coral reefs are now stranded 4 km high--over 13,000'. Climatically it's more like 7000' on Earth today--mild in temperature, above most of the clouds, and (because they're limestone) porous and lacking surface streams. Scenic, but not that easy to live in.
But the lowlands here are one of the Deep's great population centers. Not human, of course--who'd want to live down in the hot damp moldy gloom under hundred-meter trees? No, the Mascarenes, mostly megaparrots and lemurs, build their villages high in the treetops, where the sun and scenery and food is.
The exception: seashores and riverbanks, where the light penetrates. Above right is a lemur village of stilthouses by a lakeshore. Yes, lemurs catch fish now. And play the valiha, and drum and dance and drink too much and regret it in the morning, and build silly websites. All that civilized stuff.
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