Feeding behavior and nutrition of male and late-gestation female gallery forest Lemur catta at the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, Madagascar




LaFleur, Marni Mai

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Long isolation and the island environment of Madagascar has led to the evolution of a number of unusual traits in the Lemuriformes, including reproductive synchrony, sexual monomorphism, female dominance, and female feeding priority. Though gestation and lactation are costly in all mammals, the unpredictable and often harsh environment of Madagascar may have led to the selection of particular adaptive traits which offset some of the high costs of reproduction in female lemurs. Sex differences in feeding behavior between male and female Lemur catta, which have been documented previously may he a reflection of increased reproductive female nutritional need, although differences in actual nutritional intake has not been examined. In August and September of 2005 I collected 217 hours of focal feeding data on 9 male and 9 gestating female L. catta from two social groups. at the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve in southwestern Madagascar. Additionally, I collected representative samples of all plant foods eaten by the focal animals. Since reproductive females have higher metabolic needs, I predicted that when compared to males, gestating females would consume more, feed for longer periods, and ingest higher relative amounts of crude protein and minerals. and lower relative amounts of fiber. Additionally, since the two focal social groups have similar and over-lapping home ranges, I predicted that no feeding differences (amount consumed. time spent feeding, ingestion of crude protein, minerals and fiber) would be present between social groups. I found no statistically significant differences in feeding behavior between males and females. while nutritional sex differences were limited to females consuming increased phosphorus (P= 0.004) and potassium (P=0.015 ). Furthermore, although I detected no between group differences nutrient consumption or amount of food consumption Green Group did spend significantly more time foraging, when compared to Red Group (P=0.004). These data may be explained by the prior activity of cyclone Ernest. which greatly reduced food availability and caused a fruiting failure of Tamarindus indica, a keystone resource of gallery forest L. catta. Additionally, although both focal groups ventured outside of the forest to forage on agricultural or introduced plant species. Green Group only fed on crop foods on one occasion. while Red Group fed daily on the easily processed crop foods, which may have decreased their foraging time. Ability to exploit novel resources and adapt to environmental extremes may be a key feature enabling L. catta to persist alongside humans in the harsh environment of Madagascar.



Lemurs, Madagascar