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

Coping strategies of a disabled female Propithecus verreauxi at the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, Madagascar


Anthropology, The University of Colorado, Boulder

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Recent studies have demonstrated behavioral plasticity among disabled primates. Gorillas and chimpanzees, for example, adjust food processing techniques in order to minimize loss of efficiency caused by hand disabilities. Among Strepsirrhines, ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) who have lost the majority of their teeth adapt by changing foraging strategies. For this research, I compared the activity budgets and postures of a disabled female sifaka (P. verreauxi) with that of uninjured individuals in an effort to understand the coping mechanisms sifaka use to adapt to injury.

In July of 2011, at the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, Madagascar, I recorded 38 hours of continuous focal animal observations for the activity budgets of two female and one adult male P. verreauxi, between 9AM and 12PM. One of the adult females appeared to have fractured her radius and ulna; she could not use her left hand. I recorded video and notes pertaining to the postures of each of the three lemurs.

Paired-samples t-tests showed that the injured female did not spend less time feeding than the uninjured pregnant female (p = 0.19), nor were there differences observed between the latter and the male (p= 0.058), but that the injured female did spend less time feeding than did the male (p = 0.048). The injured female spent 3.84% of feeding time suspended, while the uninjured female and male spent 19.46% and 20.41% of feeding time, respectively, in a suspensory position. These results suggest that disability may constrain feeding time among sifaka.

I am very grateful for funding for this research, provided by the IPS Conservation Grant, The University of Colorado, Boulder Beverly Sears Grant, CU Boulder Museum Grant, The Department of Anthropology, CU Boulder Pre-Disseration Grant and the Scott Ferris Graduate Research Award.

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