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

Causal mechanisms of the development of scent-marking in Lemur catta: inferences from comparison of wild and captive settings


School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

Friday 193, Plaza Level Add to calendar

Where development in captivity does not mirror development in the wild, comparisons across settings can shed light on the proximate drivers of particular elements of behavioral development. Here, I compare the developmental timelines of specific aspects of the Lemur catta scent-marking behavioral suite documented in the captive literature with their developmental timelines generated from a sample of 37 immature individuals observed during 2008-2009 at Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, Madagascar. In Lemur catta, both sexes mark substrates with secretions from their anogenital glands. Males also have brachial and antebrachial scent glands and use their keratinous antebrachial spurs to gouge substrates and deposit these glandular secretions. Growth and sexual maturation in ring-tailed lemurs is greatly accelerated in captivity. The development of anogenital marking is also dramatically accelerated in captivity (13-16 months in captivity versus >24 months in the wild), but brachial and antebrachial marking are not. Instead, they appear at and persist after 12 months in captivity, nearly coincident with their final appearance at and persistence after 13 months in the wild. The timing of the onset of anogenital marking in both settings is consistent with previous suggestions that anogenital marking is driven by sexual maturation. In contrast, the invariant onset of juvenile antebrachial and brachial marking across wild and captive settings suggests that the development of these behaviors is independent of postnatal somatic and hormonal development and that prenatal hormonal and/or postnatal social cues are more likely to be causal factors.

This study was funded by The L.S.B Leakey Foundation, a Sigma-Xi Grant-in-Aid- of Research, and the Graduate and Professional Student Association and School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University.

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