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Concept: Lemur


BACKGROUND: Hematologic and biochemical data are needed to characterize the health status of animal populations over time to determine the habitat quality and captivity conditions. Blood components and the chemical entities that they transport change predominantly with sex and age. The aim of this study was to utilize blood chemistry monitoring to establish the reference levels in a small prosimian primate, the Grey Mouse Lemur (Microcebus murinus). METHOD: In the captive colony, mouse lemurs may live 10-12 years, and three age groups for both males and females were studied: young (1-3 years), middle-aged (4-5 years) and old (6-10 years). Blood biochemical markers were measured using the VetScan Comprehensive Diagnostic Profile. Because many life history traits of this primate are highly dependent on the photoperiod (body mass and reproduction), the effect of season was also assessed. RESULTS: The main effect of age was observed in blood markers of renal functions such as creatinine, which was higher among females. Additionally, blood urea nitrogen significantly increased with age and is potentially linked to chronic renal insufficiency, which has been described in captive mouse lemurs. The results demonstrated significant effects related to season, especially in blood protein levels and glucose rates; these effects were observed regardless of gender or age and were likely due to seasonal variations in food intake, which is very marked in this species. CONCLUSION: These results were highly similar with those obtained in other primate species and can serve as references for future research of the Grey Mouse Lemur.

Concepts: Prosimian, Cheirogaleidae, Primate, Renal failure, Gray Mouse Lemur, Lemur, Mouse lemur


Reconstructing the earliest phases of primate evolution has been impeded by gaps in the fossil record, so that disagreements persist regarding the palaeobiology and phylogenetic relationships of the earliest primates. Here we report the discovery of a nearly complete and partly articulated skeleton of a primitive haplorhine primate from the early Eocene of China, about 55 million years ago, the oldest fossil primate of this quality ever recovered. Coupled with detailed morphological examination using propagation phase contrast X-ray synchrotron microtomography, our phylogenetic analysis based on total available evidence indicates that this fossil is the most basal known member of the tarsiiform clade. In addition to providing further support for an early dichotomy between the strepsirrhine and haplorhine clades, this new primate further constrains the age of divergence between tarsiiforms and anthropoids. It also strengthens the hypothesis that the earliest primates were probably diurnal, arboreal and primarily insectivorous mammals the size of modern pygmy mouse lemurs.

Concepts: Haplorrhini, Simian, Fossil, Lemur, Bat, Strepsirrhini, Phylogenetics, Primate


Hibernation and short daily torpor are states of energy conservation with reduced metabolism and body temperature. Both hibernation, also called multiday torpor, and daily torpor are common among mammals and occur in at least 11 orders. Within the primates, there is a peculiar situation, because to date torpor has been almost exclusively reported for Malagasy lemurs. The single exception is the African lesser bushbaby, which is capable of daily torpor, but uses it only under extremely adverse conditions. For true hibernation, the geographical restriction was absolute. No primate outside of Madagascar was previously known to hibernate. Since hibernation is commonly viewed as an ancient, plesiomorphic trait, theoretically this could mean that hibernation as an overwintering strategy was lost in all other primates in mainland Africa, Asia, and the Americas. However, we hypothesized that a good candidate species for the use of hibernation, outside of Madagascar should be the pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus), a small primate inhabiting tropical forests. Here, we show that pygmy slow lorises exposed to natural climatic conditions in northern Vietnam during winter indeed undergo torpor lasting up to 63 h, that is, hibernation. Thus, hibernation has been retained in at least one primate outside of Madagascar.

Concepts: Bat, Lemur, Primate, Lorises and galagos, Lorisidae, Pygmy Slow Loris, Slow loris, Loris


Hibernation in mammals is a remarkable state of heterothermy wherein metabolic rates are reduced, core body temperatures reach ambient levels, and key physiological functions are suspended. Typically, hibernation is observed in cold-adapted mammals, though it has also been documented in tropical species and even primates, such as the dwarf lemurs of Madagascar. Western fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are known to hibernate for seven months per year inside tree holes. Here, we report for the first time the observation that eastern dwarf lemurs also hibernate, though in self-made underground hibernacula. Hence, we show evidence that a clawless primate is able to bury itself below ground. Our findings that dwarf lemurs can hibernate underground in tropical forests draw unforeseen parallels to mammalian temperate hibernation. We expect that this work will illuminate fundamental information about the influence of temperature, resource limitation and use of insulated hibernacula on the evolution of hibernation.

Concepts: Hibernation, Cheirogaleidae, Colugo, Lemur, Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur, Mammal, Primate, Bat


The uneven representation of frugivorous mammals and birds across tropical regions - high in the New World, low in Madagascar and intermediate in Africa and Asia - represents a long-standing enigma in ecology. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain these differences but the ultimate drivers remain unclear. Here, we tested the hypothesis that fruits in Madagascar contain insufficient nitrogen to meet primate metabolic requirements, thus constraining the evolution of frugivory. We performed a global analysis of nitrogen in fruits consumed by primates, as collated from 79 studies. Our results showed that average frugivory among lemur communities was lower compared to New World and Asian-African primate communities. Fruits in Madagascar contain lower average nitrogen than those in the New World and Old World. Nitrogen content in the overall diets of primate species did not differ significantly between major taxonomic radiations. There is no relationship between fruit protein and the degree of frugivory among primates either globally or within regions, with the exception of Madagascar. This suggests that low protein availability in fruits influences current lemur communities to select for protein from other sources, whereas in the New World and Old World other factors are more significant in shaping primate communities.

Concepts: New World, Ring-tailed Lemur, Metabolism, Seed dispersal, Lemur, Nitrogen, Africa, Primate


Among the Strepsirrhini, molar size does not exhibit a consistent dietary signal when body mass is used to size-adjust molar dimensions. This observation is also true for anthropoid primates, but when postcanine size is expressed relative to the size of the facial skeleton in this clade, folivorous anthropoids tend to have relatively larger postcanine teeth than anthropoids in other dietary categories. The contrast in the results generated by these two independent size variables appears to be related to systematic differences in facial size in the Anthropoidea, particularly between short-faced colobines and long-faced cercopithecines. The goal of this study was to determine whether a similar pattern of relationships characterizes strepsirrhines. Data on molar area, facial size, body mass, and diet for forty-three extant strepsirrhines and seven subfossil lemurs were analyzed using phylogenetic generalized least squares. Results indicate that strepsirrhine folivores tend to have larger molars than frugivores relative to the size of the facial skeleton. Insectivorous species exhibit a wide range of variation in relative molar size that appears to be taxonomically patterned: lorisids in this dietary category resemble folivores, whereas galagids resemble frugivores. These results confirm the generality of the anthropoid pattern and support the idea that, in some contexts, it may be useful to consider elements of the masticatory system relative to their functional and developmental environments rather than to overall organismal size. The biological significance of having large postcanine teeth relative to the size of the face, but not body mass, is discussed with reference to a model that identifies the size of the oral cavity as the most functionally relevant standard for assessing the relative size of the postcanine dentition.

Concepts: Aye-aye, Fossil, Simian, Teeth, Lemur, Ring-tailed Lemur, Strepsirrhini, Primate


Glucocorticoid hormones are known to play a key role in mediating a cascade of physiological responses to social and ecological stressors and can therefore influence animals' behaviour and ultimately fitness. Yet, how glucocorticoid levels are associated with reproductive success or survival in a natural setting has received little empirical attention so far. Here, we examined links between survival and levels of glucocorticoid in a small, short-lived primate, the grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus), using for the first time an indicator of long-term stress load (hair cortisol concentration). Using a capture-mark-recapture modelling approach, we assessed the effect of stress on survival in a broad context (semi-annual rates), but also under a specific period of high energetic demands during the reproductive season. We further assessed the power of other commonly used health indicators (body condition and parasitism) in predicting survival outcomes relative to the effect of long-term stress.

Concepts: Lemur, Cheirogaleidae, Gray Mouse Lemur, Mouse lemur


Assessing manual lateralization in non-human primates could be an optimal way to understand the adaptive value of this asymmetry in humans. Though many studies have investigated hand preferences in Old and New World monkeys and apes, fewer studies have considered manual lateralization in strepsirrhines, especially in experimental tasks. This study investigated hand preferences for a unimanual and a bimanual task of 17 captive ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta), housed at Parco Natura Viva (VR), Italy. The effect of age on handedness has been also investigated. The lemurs were tested on a unimanual task, in which subjects were restricted to using one hand to retrieve the food inside an apparatus, and on a bimanual task, in which lemurs had to use one hand to keep the apparatus door open while reaching with the other hand to retrieve the food inside it. At the population-level, our results revealed an asymmetrical hand use distribution, in particular a bias toward a right hand preference for food reaching in both the unimanual and the bimanual tasks. Furthermore, at the individual-level, the bimanual task seems to elicit a greater hand preference than the unimanual task. Results of this study underline the importance of experimental tasks in determining hand preference in strepsirrhines. Furthermore, as bimanual tasks elicited a stronger degree of lateralization, they appear to be more suited to investigate manual laterality. Finally, findings from this study highlight the presence of a right hand preference in ring-tailed lemurs, shedding new light on the evolution of human right handedness. Am. J. Primatol. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Left-handedness, Right-handedness, Handedness, Lemuridae, Lemur, Strepsirrhini, Ring-tailed Lemur, Primate


The fossil record of early primates is largely comprised of dentitions. While teeth can indicate phylogenetic relationships and dietary preferences, they say little about hypotheses pertaining to the positional behavior or substrate preference of the ancestral crown primate. Here we report the discovery of a talus bone of the dentally primitive fossil euprimate Donrussellia provincialis. Our comparisons and analyses indicate that this talus is more primitive than that of other euprimates. It lacks features exclusive to strepsirrhines, like a large medial tibial facet and a sloping fibular facet. It also lacks the medially positioned flexor-fibularis groove of extant haplorhines. In these respects, the talus of D. provincialis comes surprisingly close to that of the pen-tailed treeshrew, Ptilocercus lowii, and extinct plesiadapiforms for which tali are known. However, it differs from P. lowii and is more like other early euprimates in exhibiting an expanded posterior trochlear shelf and deep talar body. In overall form, the bone approximates more leaping reliant euprimates. The phylogenetically basal signal from the new fossil is confirmed with cladistic analyses of two different character matrices, which place D. provincialis as the most basal strepsirrhine when the new tarsal data are included. Interpreting our results in the context of other recent discoveries, we conclude that the lineage leading to the ancestral euprimate had already become somewhat leaping specialized, while certain specializations for the small branch niche came after crown primates began to radiate.

Concepts: Lemur, Pen-tailed Treeshrew, Phylogenetic tree, Cladistics, Strepsirrhini, Phylogenetics, Treeshrew, Primate


As alarm calls indicate the presence of predators, the correct interpretation of alarm calls, including those of other species, is essential for predator avoidance. Conversely, communication calls of other species might indicate the perceived absence of a predator and hence allow a reduction in vigilance. This “eavesdropping” was demonstrated in birds and mammals, including lemur species. Interspecific communication between taxonomic groups has so far been reported in some reptiles and mammals, including three primate species. So far, neither semantic nor interspecific communication has been tested in a solitary and nocturnal lemur species. The aim of this study was to investigate if the nocturnal and solitary Sahamalaza sportive lemur, Lepilemur sahamalazensis, is able to access semantic information of sympatric species. During the day, this species faces the risk of falling prey to aerial and terrestrial predators and therefore shows high levels of vigilance. We presented alarm calls of the crested coua, the Madagascar magpie-robin and aerial, terrestrial and agitation alarm calls of the blue-eyed black lemur to 19 individual Sahamalaza sportive lemurs resting in tree holes. Songs of both bird species' and contact calls of the blue-eyed black lemur were used as a control. After alarm calls of crested coua, Madagascar magpie-robin and aerial alarm of the blue-eyed black lemur, the lemurs scanned up and their vigilance increased significantly. After presentation of terrestrial alarm and agitation calls of the blue-eyed black lemur, the animals did not show significant changes in scanning direction or in the duration of vigilance. Sportive lemur vigilance decreased after playbacks of songs of the bird species and contact calls of blue-eyed black lemurs. Our results indicate that the Sahamalaza sportive lemur is capable of using information on predator presence as well as predator type of different sympatric species, using their referential signals to detect predators early, and that the lemurs' reactions are based on experience and learning.

Concepts: Madagascar, Predation, Antipredator adaptation, Lemuridae, Ring-tailed Lemur, Sportive lemur, Lemur, Primate