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

The social organization of Lemur catta in the region of Cap Sainte-Marie, Madagascar


Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis

Thursday 9:45-10:00, Galleria South Add to calendar

Perceptions of “typical” Lemur catta behavior are based primarily on captive and gallery forest studies. The objective of this study is to compare assumed species-typical behaviors with data collected during a long term study on this species in a completely different environment: the semi-desert conditions of Cap Sainte-Marie (CSM), Madagascar. The specific behaviors that are investigated include 1) activity budgets, 2) agonism trends, 3) group cohesion patterns, 4) dyadic bonds, and 5) adult to immature relationships. Data have been collected on two different troops through all day follows using focal animal and scan sampling methods. Over 1,019 hours of behavioral data are included in the analyses.

Relative to other populations, CSM Lemur catta are highly social, and immatures are central to troop dynamics. In fact, a major form of agonism in one troop especially seems akin to socialization. Conversely, while female targeted aggression is not a primary agonistic form with these troops, there is also an absence of strong female dyads. Last, there are consistent affiliative interactions between resident males and troop immatures, and no males dispersed from one troop during the 15 months of observations. Based on these findings, I conclude that the social organization of CSM L. catta is largely shaped by two factors: 1) a lack of multigenerational matrilines and 2) a near absence of inter-troop contact. I also propose that L. catta may be predisposed for behaviors such as paternal care, but that these behaviors are typically suppressed in other studied troops because of these factors.

This study was funded by: Field for Research Conservation-St. Louis Zoo, Lambda Alpha, National Science Foundation #0752334 (PI Robert W. Sussman), and Primate Conservation Inc.

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