The island nation of Madagascar, an international conservation priority, is now also recognized as a global hotspot for freshwater biodiversity. Three emerging characteristics of Madagascar's threatened freshwater biota deserve increased attention from the scientific and conservation communities. First, species richness is not low, as was once assumed for both the freshwater fishes and the invertebrates. Second, many species are restricted to a specific region or even to single river basins. Often these species are also limited to streams or rivers draining primary forest habitat. Finally, many of the island's freshwater fishes are basal taxa, having diverged earlier than any other extant members of their clade. As such, these taxa assume disproportional phylogenetic importance. In the face of ongoing environmental threats, links among microendemism, forest stream specialization, and basal phylogenetic position highlight the importance and vulnerability of these species and provide a powerful incentive for immediate conservation action.
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Vol. 53 • No. 11