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

Wet season dietary comparisons of Lemur catta populations in southwestern Madagascar


1Institute for Population Genetics, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria, 2Dept. Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, 3Dept. Anthropology, University of Colorado-Boulder, 4Dept. Anthropology, University of North Dakota

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The diets of ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) in the gallery forests of southern Madagascar are dominated by the fruits of Tamarindus indica (kily). Our earlier work has associated the heavy postcanine wear observed in populations at Beza Mahafaly special reserve (BMSR) with their reliance on kily fruit, which is the most frequently eaten food in their diets and the most mechanically challenging. In the present study, we extend comparisons of L.catta diets to sites that differ in the degree to which kily is present. The gallery and dry/spiny forests of BMSR and the dry forest and scrub of Tsimanampetsotse National Park (TNP) range from kily-dominated in BMSR to moderately populated in TNP.

We conducted feeding observations and tested food properties (toughness, modulus, hardness) of L.catta populations at the two locations in successive rainy seasons in 2010 and 2011. The L.catta population at TNP did not eat kily fruit during the observation period, though they do later in the year. Kily fruit shell was the toughest plant part tested across sites, and the BMSR diet was tougher overall. However, some succulents and fruits in the TNP diet were also quite tough, and the mechanical profiles for the two sites looked similar. Hardness and modulus values were more varied and overlapped. Earlier work showed that the TNP lemurs had less dental wear and loss than the BMSR populations. Our findings support the idea that the physical properties and degree of consumption of kily fruit are responsible for increased dental wear.

Supported by Austrian Academy of Sciences, NSF BCS 0922465, NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship 296264, NSF DDIG 1028708

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