Community Ecology - Original Paper


, Volume 157, Issue 3, pp 473-483

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Small-scale coexistence of two mouse lemur species (Microcebus berthae and M. murinus) within a homogeneous competitive environment

  • Melanie DammhahnAffiliated withAbteilung Verhaltensökologie & Soziobiologie, Deutsches Primatenzentrum Email author 
  • , Peter M. KappelerAffiliated withAbteilung Verhaltensökologie & Soziobiologie, Deutsches PrimatenzentrumAbteilung Soziobiologie/Anthropologie, Universität Göttingen


Understanding the co-occurrence of ecologically similar species remains a puzzling issue in community ecology. The species-rich mouse lemurs (Microcebus spec.) are distributed over nearly all remaining forest areas of Madagascar with a high variability in species distribution patterns. Locally, many congeneric species pairs seem to co-occur, but only little detailed information on spatial patterns is available. Here, we present the results of an intensive capture–mark–recapture study of sympatric Microcebus berthae and M. murinus populations that revealed small-scale mutual spatial exclusion. Nearest neighbour analysis indicated a spatial aggregation in Microcebus murinus but not in M. berthae. Although the diet of both species differed in proportions of food categories, they used the same food sources and had high feeding niche overlap. Also, forest structure related to the spatial distribution of main food sources did not explain spatial segregation because parts used by each species exclusively did not differ in density of trees, dead wood and lianas. We propose that life history trade-offs that result in species aggregation and a relative increase in the strength of intra-specific over inter-specific competition best explain the observed pattern of co-occurrence of ecologically similar congeneric Microcebus species.


Coexistence Congenerics Interspecific Competition Microcebus Spatial patterns