Seasonal Changes in Feeding Ecology and Activity Patterns of Two Sympatric Mouse Lemur Species, the Gray Mouse Lemur (Microcebus murinus) and the Golden-brown Mouse Lemur (M. ravelobensis), in Northwestern Madagascar
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- Thorén, S., Quietzsch, F., Schwochow, D. et al. Int J Primatol (2011) 32: 566. doi:10.1007/s10764-010-9488-1
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Because closely related species are likely to be ecologically similar owing to common ancestry, they should show some degree of differentiation in order to coexist. We studied 2 morphologically similar congeneric species, the golden-brown mouse lemur (Microcebus ravelobensis) and the gray mouse lemur (M. murinus). These species are found in partial sympatry in the dry deciduous forest in northwestern Madagascar. We investigated whether 1) feeding niche differentiation and/or 2) a reduction in locomotor activity during periods of food shortage, which might reflect an energy saving strategy, can explain the coexistence of these 2 lemur species. To obtain feeding and behavioral data, we conducted focal observations of 11 female Microcebus murinus and 9 female M. ravelobensis during 11 months from 2007 to 2008 and collected fecal samples for 6 mo. We monitored the phenology of 272 plant specimens and trapped arthropods to determine food availability. Results revealed interspecific differences in 1) relative proportion of consumed food resources, resulting in a merely partial dietary overlap, and in 2) relative importance of seasonally varying food resources throughout the year. In addition, females of Microcebus murinus showed a reduction in locomotor activity during the early dry season, which might reflect an energy-saving strategy and might further reduce potential competition with M. ravelobensis over limited food resources. To conclude, a combination of interspecific feeding niche differentiation and differences in locomotor activity appears to facilitate the coexistence of Microcebus murinus and M. ravelobensis.