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Cathemerality in the Mayotte Brown Lemur (Eulemur fulvus):Seasonality and Food Quality

Tarnaud L.
Unité Scientifique ‘Eco-Anthropologie et Ethnobiologie’, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France Folia Primatol 2006;77:166–177 (DOI:10.1159/000089702)


In past decades, cathemerality – as defined by Tattersall [1987] – has been documented in two primate families: Cebidae and Lemuridae. In the Lemuridae, in particular the genus Eulemur, cathemeral activity seems to be a regular behavioural trait. Nevertheless, ultimate and proximate determinants responsible for this behaviour remain unclear. In this study, in a dry and deciduous forest on Mayotte (Comoro Archipelago), activities of 4 female brown lemurs (Eulemur fulvus fulvus) were recorded by focal animal sampling during the daylight period and by scan sampling on their respective groups during the night. Horizontal distances travelled by females and groups were measured using GPS. During the daylight period, food intakes were estimated in grams by extrapolation of counting of mouthfuls after weighing a large sample of plant parts eaten. Crude protein, crude lipid, soluble sugar and crude fibre were analyzed for each seasonal reconstituted diet. Records of temperature and rainfall were supplied by a local meteorological station. Observations confirmed cathemerality in the Mayotte brown lemur as reported by Tattersall in 1977. During the dry season, the animals increased their nocturnal activity – substantially increasing the time devoted to feeding and moving overall, but especially at night – and were less active during the daylight period. The quality of their diet in the dry season was poorer than that in the wet season, with soluble sugar content and protein content decreasing and fibre content increasing slightly. As a result, Mayotte brown lemurs may need to extend their foraging activity over the 24-hour cycle to balance nutritional requirements.


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