Article

International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 505-523

First online:

Maternal responses to dead and dying infants in wild troops of ring-tailed lemurs at the Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

  • Masayuki NakamichiAffiliated withDepartment of Ethology, Faculty of Human Sciences, Osaka University
  • , Naoki KoyamaAffiliated withThe Center for African Studies, Kyoto University
  • , Alison JollyAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University

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Abstract

We describe responses of seven mothers and other troop members to dead and dying infants in several troops of ring-tailed lemurs(Lemur catta) at the Berenty Reserve, Madagascar. In contrast to mothers in simian species, ring-tailed lemur mothers rarely carried their dying, immobile or dead infants. However, they sniffed, licked, and touched them even after they had died. While the dying infants were still peeping, their mothers remained near them, and 15 to 76 min after the infants ceased to peep, they were left by their mothers. Six of the seven mothers returned to their dead infants several times within the first few hours after they had left them. All seven mothers gave repeated calls, such as “mew” and “pyaa,” when they were separated from either their dead infants or other troop members or both. Thus, each mother exhibited some form of maternal behavior toward her dead infant for hours after its death. These results indicate that there may not be a great gap in terms of maternal affection between simian and prosimian mothers. We also discuss visuospatial memory ability in ring-tailed lemurs and the causes of the infants’ deaths.

Key words

Lemur catta infant death maternal behavior maternal affectional system high infant mortality