The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Maintaining pair-bonds in red-bellied lemurs (Eulemur rubriventer): A preliminary captive study at Duke Lemur Center, Durham, NC


1School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, 2Laboratory for the Evolutionary Endocrinology of Primates, School of Anthropology, University of Arizona

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Red-bellied lemurs (Eulemur rubriventer) are one of few nonhuman primate species known to exhibit obligatory pair-bonds. We know very little about how E. rubriventer initially form pair-bonds or how these pair-bonds are maintained once established. Most pair-bonded nonhuman primates (e.g., indris, titis, tarsiers, and gibbons) are marked by their use of song—vocal duets between bonded individuals and their offspring—in maintaining pair-bonds and defending territories. Red-bellied lemurs are unique because they do not use song. We aim to elucidate the ways in which E. rubriventer use tactile, olfactory, and auditory signals other than song to maintain pair-bonds.

From June-August 2012 (N=70 hours), we observed occurrences of 1) prolonged physical contact and grooming (i.e., tactile signals), 2) affiliative scent marking, wherein the male and female pass over each other applying scent directly to the recipient’s body (i.e., olfactory signals), and 3) auditory interactions using close-distance contact calls (grunts) in four established pairs of red-bellied lemurs. We recorded all instances of these behaviors and vocalizations during hour long sampling sessions. The use of touch, scent, and sound was analyzed to determine frequencies of occurrence within and across groups, providing a preliminary picture of how E. rubriventer maintain pair-bonds. Across groups, the most frequently used signal was the close-distance contact call, distantly followed by olfactory and tactile signals. Prolonged physical contact was most often maintained during sustained rest periods. Future observations of wild E. rubriventer will further advance our understanding of how these lemurs form and maintain pair-bonds.

Supported by the School of Anthropology at University of Arizona through the William and Nancy Sullivan Scholarship Fund.

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