Influence of Abiotic Factors on Cathemeral Activity: The Case of Eulemur fulvus collaris in the Littoral Forest of MadagascarDonati G.a, b · Borgognini-Tarli S.M.a
a Department of Ethology, Ecology and Evolution, Unit of Anthropology, Pisa, Italy; b Department of Animal Ecology and Conservation, Institute of Zoology, Hamburg, Germany
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The role environmental factors play in influencing circadian rhythms in natural habitats is still poorly described in primates, especially for those taxa with an activity cycle extended over the 24-hour cycle. In this paper, we elucidate the importance of abiotic factors in entraining the activity of cathemeral primates, focussing on results from a long-term study of Eulemur fulvus collaris (collared brown lemur) in south-eastern Malagasy littoral forest. Two groups of lemurs were followed for 60 whole-day and 59 whole-night observation periods over 14 months. Diurnal and nocturnal observations were equally distributed among moon phases and seasons. Temperature and humidity were recorded hourly by automatic data loggers. The littoral forest has a climatic environment where rainfall and humidity are uncorrelated with temperature and photoperiod. Diurnal and nocturnal activity varied seasonally, with the former increasing significantly with extended day length and the latter increasing significantly with shortened day length. Dusk seemed to act as a primary zeitgeber for these lemurs, coordinating the onset of evening activity throughout the entire year. Lunar phase and the nocturnal luminosity index correlated positively with the duration of nocturnal activity and negatively with the length of diurnal activity. Temperature was positively associated with diurnal activity but did not seem to influence lemur rhythms at night. Finally, lemur nocturnal activity significantly decreased when levels of humidity and rainfall were high. Cathemeral biorhythm is triggered by zeitgebers and influenced by masking factors. The activity of collared brown lemurs appears to be seasonally influenced by photoperiod and directly modulated by nocturnal ambient luminosity. These results are discussed by comparing data from other cathemeral species living in various climatic situations.
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