The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Differences in activity patterns between mouse lemurs (Microcebus griseorufus) in protected and human-disturbed forests in the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, Madagascar


1Department of Anthropology, Colorado College, 2Department of Anthropology, Texas A & M University, 3Department of Anthropology, Purdue University, 4Department of Paleontology and Biological Anthropology, University of Antananarivo

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Although the physiological adaptations used by mouse lemurs (Microcebus spp.) in response to Madagascar's unpredictable climates are well documented, information on their behavioral adaptations in coping with forest loss and disturbance is minimal. We investigated the impact of anthropogenic disturbance on the timing of mouse lemur (Microcebus griseorufus) activities in two adjacent deciduous forests in the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve (BMSR) during a 1.5 month period. Parcel 1 of the BMSR is an intact, undisturbed forest while the neighboring forest patch remains unprotected. This patch is utilized by the local Mahafaly people for livestock grazing, resulting in a reduction of forest resources. Mouse lemur behaviors and time of activity were recorded during continuous focal sampling in both forests. Plant and insect abundance were monitored in both forests to explore variation in resource availability between the two forests.

Mouse lemurs displayed different patterns of activity in the two forests. They were encountered more frequently in the disturbed habitat than in parcel 1 with the majority of additional encounters occurring in the second part of the night (midnight to sunrise). Mouse lemurs in parcel 1 were more active in the early portion of the night (sunset to midnight) and they were encountered foraging more frequently during this time. In contrast, mouse lemurs in the disturbed habitat were encountered foraging more frequently in the second portion of the night. The results indicate that mouse lemurs alter their activity patterns in response to human disturbances, likely as a result of changes in resource availability.

This study was funded by a Colorado College Social Sciences Executive Committee grant and Colorado College Venture Grants.

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