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

The role of exotic and ornamental plants in the feeding ecology of mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus) at Berenty Private Reserve, Madagascar


Department of Anthropology, Colorado College

Friday Afternoon, 301D Add to calendar

Vegetation within and surrounding Berenty Private Reserve in southern Madagascar exhibits human influences such as the introduction of exotic plants and the use of ornamentals. Animals such as fruit bats (Pteropus rufus) and ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) exploit these plants with consequences for their health and conservation, but the use of ornamental or exotic plants by nocturnal primates remains unexamined. During a six-month study spanning the rainy season/ dry season transition, the feeding ecology of mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus) was investigated, including their use of non-native and ornamental vegetation. Continuous focal sampling of mouse lemur behaviors occurred in both the gallery forest and the forest-tourist lodge interface. The time, location, and type of food item consumed by mouse lemurs were recorded. Habitat structure, tree phenology and insect abundance were assessed along forest transects.

During the study period, mouse lemurs foraged primarily on insects. However, in the late rainy season, Cordia sinensis fruits comprised the majority of their diet. Although native to Madagascar, C. sinensis was not sampled within Berenty’s gallery forests. Instead, it was most abundant along roads and near tourist lodges where it was used as ornamental vegetation. Mouse lemurs also consumed exudates from the introduced prickly pear (Opuntia sp.). Another exotic, Cissus quadrangularis strangled 23% of the sampled trees within the gallery forest with implications for fruit, leaf, and folivorous insect abundance. Comparisons to mouse lemurs in other habitats suggest a lowering of dietary diversity for Berenty’s mouse lemurs due to the prevalence of C. sinensis.

This study was funded by a University of Colorado Museum of Natural History grant, an American Society of Primatologists General Small Grant, a Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research, a William H. Burt Museum Fund grant and a University of Colorado Beverly Sears Graduate Student Grant.

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