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

Population health in fragmented forests: dry season variations in stress and parasitism in the Lemur catta of Madagascar’s central highlands


1Departments of Anthropology and Biology, University of Victoria, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Victoria

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Stress and parasitic profiles of a species can be sensitive indicators of its changing health ecology, particularly in the face of habitat alteration. We assessed these health parameters in populations of Lemur catta inhabiting two isolated fragments in south-central Madagascar – Anja Reserve and the Tsaranoro Valley forest. We investigated whether there were between-site or sex differences in stress hormone (corticosterone, CORT) levels in the 2009 dry season, or between-site differences in parasite infection for both 2009 and 2010 dry seasons. Fifty fecal samples were collected for each season, with equal numbers of samples representing each site and sex. A portion of each sample was fixed in PVA solution for parasite analysis; the remainder dried and ground for CORT extraction. We found no differences in CORT levels between sites or sexes. Nematodes were found in 16% and 19% of our 2009 samples from Anja and Tsaranoro, respectively, while protozoa infection was detected in 12% (Anja) and 7% (Tsaranoro) of samples. The prevalence of parasite infection was higher in 2010, as 25% of samples from Anja and 63% from Tsaranoro contained nematodes, and this was also a significant between-site difference. We found no between-site difference in protozoa infection in our 2010 samples (63 vs. 52%); however, samples from Anja contained a higher parasite richness (5:1). We suggest that differences in foraging strategies, food resource distribution, and prevalence of heavy tourism at Anja may help to explain the within and between site differences in parasite loads/richness.

This study was funded by an NSERC grant to LG.

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